On a hot, muggy evening in July, Brandon Hudgins competed in the Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and finished third, ahead of one longtime rival, but behind two others.
“My times weren’t very fast due to the sweltering conditions,” Brandon recalled, “but the effort was there. I fought off many demons and negative thoughts during that last mile, that were begging me to give into the pain and horrible conditions. It was a huge step in the right direction, mentally, as I begin to prep for shorter races the rest of the summer.”
He added, “As the Liberty Mile approached, I found myself getting extremely anxious. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it for the weeks leading into the race, but basically, the fear of racing the best in the country again slowly started to wear me down.
“Luckily, by race day I found myself in the zone when the gun went off. The 4:10 I ran was seven seconds faster than I was capable of in May, so I knew my body was finally responding to the training and work I had done since March.”
Unfortunately, in late July, blood work revealed that Brandon is still battling some lingering anemia.
“A wonderful side effect that can occur following Rituxan treatment,” he said sardonically. “This explained a lot about how I was feeling during training sessions and races.
“With a 10-15% reduction in oxygen-carrying capacity, there is no way that I can return to the level of fitness and racing capabilities that I desire. I had to decide whether to scrap my remaining races or show up in less-than-ideal fitness that didn’t reflect my workload.
“After long talks with my coach, girlfriend, and parents, we all decided I need to get back out there and keep fighting.”
Brandon noted that he’d battled far tougher odds in life.
“While I talk about my running goals, they are the goals of the entire vasculitis community and fellow #victoryovervasculitis campaign members: live the life you wish and not let our vasculitis stop us from chasing our dreams.
“I know that with each passing month I’ll be stronger. Our campaign is not done reaching and inspiring people. The more places I visit, the more people I get the chance to share our story with, and the bigger mountains we climb, the easier it’s going to be for the next generation of patients with vasculitis.”
Brandon said there are still a few races left this year and his goal is to focus on both the mental and physical challenges and finish each race satisfied with his time and effort.
“While my times won’t be up to my normal standard,” he said, “I’ve still got lessons to learn and experience to gain.” He added, “Whatever your journey, path, or mission in life is, listen to it. It will bring great wisdom.”