Mud, sweat and tears

Posted Nov. 21, 2011, at 8:48 p.m.
Whimsically sporting her mud &quotwar paint," Riley Simmons of Oceanside High School (Rockland) kicks to the finish of the Maine Festival of Champions 5000 meter cross country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.
Whimsically sporting her mud "war paint," Riley Simmons of Oceanside High School (Rockland) kicks to the finish of the Maine Festival of Champions 5000 meter cross country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. Buy Photo
A female harrier sloshes through the mud on a rainy Eastern Regional Championship race in Belfast Oct. 22, 2011.
A female harrier sloshes through the mud on a rainy Eastern Regional Championship race in Belfast Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo
Bangor High School's Nate Ivey, second from right, and other harriers power up one of the final hills near the end of their Maine Eastern Regional Cross-Country championship race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.
Bangor High School's Nate Ivey, second from right, and other harriers power up one of the final hills near the end of their Maine Eastern Regional Cross-Country championship race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo
A runner with Ellsworth High School eyes her competition as they crest a hill with just over a half mile left in their Eastern Regional Championship race in Belfast Oct. 22, 2011.
A runner with Ellsworth High School eyes her competition as they crest a hill with just over a half mile left in their Eastern Regional Championship race in Belfast Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo
Near the one-mile mark, runners circle the pond behind Troy Howard Middle School during a Eastern Regional Cross-Country Championship race in Belfast Oct. 22, 2011.
Near the one-mile mark, runners circle the pond behind Troy Howard Middle School during a Eastern Regional Cross-Country Championship race in Belfast Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo
Ethan Pendexter of Washburn District High School is a study in grit and determination as he kicks to the finish of his Eastern Regional Cross-Country Championship race in Belfast, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.
Ethan Pendexter of Washburn District High School is a study in grit and determination as he kicks to the finish of his Eastern Regional Cross-Country Championship race in Belfast, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Caleb Lord pushes through the pain as he kicks to the finish of his Festival of Champions cross-country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.
Hampden Academy's Caleb Lord pushes through the pain as he kicks to the finish of his Festival of Champions cross-country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. Buy Photo
Warren Mann of Lee Academy grimaces as he kicks to the finish of the Eastern Maine Regional Cross-Country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.
Warren Mann of Lee Academy grimaces as he kicks to the finish of the Eastern Maine Regional Cross-Country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo
Ethan Cantlin of Falmouth High School shows his relief at the finish of his Festival of Champions cross-country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.
Ethan Cantlin of Falmouth High School shows his relief at the finish of his Festival of Champions cross-country race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. Buy Photo
A Mt. Ararat High School runner reacts at the finish line of her Maine Cross-Country Eastern Regional Cross-Country Championship race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.
A Mt. Ararat High School runner reacts at the finish line of her Maine Cross-Country Eastern Regional Cross-Country Championship race in Belfast Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. Buy Photo

Running is a freedom. Freedom from comfort. Just remember that.

In October I watched two regional high school cross-country races on the sprawling hills and dales behind Belfast’s Troy Howard Middle School.

For anyone who isn’t a runner or hasn’t seen a cross-country race, imagine that you’re scantily clad and your co-inhabitant has just booted you outdoors with the mercury reading 45 degrees. The plot thickens as you find yourself scrambling along a tree-veined mud trail with hills for THREE-PLUS MILES. Did I mention the dodgy parts where you might trip and eat dirt while jostling to pass or be passed by other harriers?

It sounds a bit masochistic on a Saturday morning, right? But, really, it’s a lot of … ummm … fun.

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