BANGOR, Maine — Three young sisters stood together in Pickering Square after running 1.9 miles from the Brewer Dunkin’ Donuts on the Fourth of July. They had numbers pinned to their sweaty T-shirts; and they were smiling.
It was time to eat orange slices and drink water after having crossed the finish line of the Walter Hunt Memorial road race, “Maine’s Fastest Race,” which drew more than 450 runners.
For the Stockley sisters from Chester, it was not the first or longest race in which they’d competed.
“When I race, I don’t really know what I like about it, but it’s running, and I’m kind of competitive,” said Leela, 11, who has participated in four 5-kilometer races this year.
“You’re active, so you don’t get overweight,” she said. “Usually it’s fun because I’m in the fresh air and I feel refreshed. I usually run at home on a trail we have at the house. I run about every day.”
The trail that wraps around their house and into the forest is 0.39 miles long. Leela typically runs eight loops — about 5 kilometers.
“It’s quiet and peaceful when you run by yourself in the woods,” said Leela. “You can hear the animals in the woods and sometimes even see them.”
She never sees gray squirrels around her house, she said, but while running on the trail, she saw them for the first time.
“Sometimes, if I run four miles of the trail, I stop halfway,” said Leela. “There’s a pine grove two-thirds of the way in, and I like to stop there. It’s peaceful and quiet.
“When you’re outside, you don’t feel like you’re closed in. It’s a kind of free feeling to me.”
Leela and her sister Usha, 10, run the races independently.
“I just like it,” says Usha, who has competed in three 5-kilometer races this year. “Sometimes I run with Dad or I just do it by myself.”
Then there is Esmae, 5, who already has raced in two 5Ks.
“I like running because it’s so much fun,” said Esmae, who prefers to run outside, but uses a treadmill in the basement in the winter.
“I just keep going,” said Esmae, referring to times when she becomes tired while running. From her seat on the brick curb of Pickering Square, she pointed up at her mom and said, “Her,” indicating Bernice, 47, who runs with her and encourages her.
Bernice and her husband, Alan, 61, both ran in the Fourth of July race with them.
“Many different things keep me going. In the heat, the faster I can run, the faster I can get out of the heat,” said Leela, standing in the sun as the temperature climbed to the high 80s.
The three sisters ran against many other children that day.
“I would say maybe an eighth of people signed up are kids,” said co-director of the race Margaret Capehart. “This is a big one for the kids. It’s longer for them [1.9 miles]. Usually they run 1-mile fun runs.”
The sisters were among the faster children. Mixed in with adult runners, they had sprinted along the final footbridge between red, white and blue balloons.
Leela placed third in her age group.
“I’ll run for my life. I’ll run as long as I can run,” she said.
Sub5 Track Club began a running program for children last week called Kids Run the Nation. On Wednesdays, the children gather and do plyometrics, running exercises and relays. For information, visit www.sub5.com or e-mail email@example.com.