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
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
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
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.