HOMER, Alaska — Those who know Saundra Hudson well would say that a mile race is nothing for the active member of the Homer running community. But after an accident last winter landed her in a Lower 48 medical facility, Hudson’s first run in six months was anything but trivial.
The first ever Mariner Mile event was held Sept. 14 at the Homer High School track as a fundraiser for the Kachemak Bay Running Club. Hudson, who has not been able to run since she slipped on the ice in March and suffered a concussion and other brain trauma, said she had recently been cleared by a doctor and decided it was high time to get back to her beloved activity when she heard about the event.
The community support for her recovery and her return to the track were incredibly special, Hudson said, especially considering that she went through some “very dark days” since the accident.
“. Today was the first day that I ran in six months,” she said. “My body . it’s out of shape but it knew what to do.”
Hudson has long been active in the Homer area running community. She’s coached both cross-country running and track at both Homer High School and Homer Middle School, and she’s served on the Kachemak Bay Running Club board of directors from the club’s inception until her accident. She was also heavily involved in pushing for the track to be put in at the high school. For someone whose life centers so much around running, six months without it was difficult, Hudson said.
“It’s hard to put it in words,” she said. “But being a lifelong runner . it was part of my life. I ran 4-6 miles every day and then having an injury that just takes you to doing literally nothing, was a huge part of the challenge.”
“Saundra loves running, it’s just her passion.” said Homer High School Athletic Director Chris Perk, Hudson’s husband. “. Since (the accident) she hasn’t run at all, trying to let her brain heal and just battle the symptoms that came on with that. So to have something that you’re really passionate about be taken away, (it’s) pretty tough to deal with on all fronts.”
The cross-country team dedicated the event to Hudson in honor of her recovery. She rounded the last bend of the track on her last lap to applause and supporters running next to her. She crossed the finish line through a human tunnel created by friends and well-wishers who rushed to greet her at the end of the race. Perk, who was announcing for the event, had to pause for a moment, getting visibly choked up as she closed in on the finish line.
While she was recovering, Hudson spent time healing at Stanford and the Cleveland Clinic. She’s been out of state getting treatment since June, and before that she was on 24-7 watch. Friends signed up to keep Hudson company in shifts, she said. A history teacher at Homer Middle School for 18 years, Hudson got back into education at the high school on Sept. 11, teaching physical education half time.
“Being back to work with the kids has been the best healing that I’ve had,” she said.
Highlighted by Hudson’s long-awaited and much-celebrated return to running, the Mariner Mile served as a way to raise funds for the Kachemak Bay Running Club while getting the community outside and active. Participants signed up to run one mile around the track in four different heats.
Organized by the high school’s cross-country teams, the event was meant to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, said cross-country coach Annie Ridgely. The fundraiser is the team’s way of giving back to the club, which often lends financial support to the high school runners throughout their season to help them travel to their meets.
Perk said the event was a neat way for people to get involved and be supportive of local teams and sports clubs, while getting something out of it too. Perk himself ran in one of the heats, and said it was fun to test his current mile time.
“For coach Annie and the team to want to dedicate it, it just was really special,” he said.