Widefield's Maximilliano Martinez, left, and Air Academy's Ethan Powell lead in the 4A boys state cross country championships at the Norris-Penrose Event Center on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

After running up the first hill, I stopped and took in my surroundings.

I also might have taken a few deep breaths.

Luckily, I’m not a high school cross country runner. I’d have been a disappointment.

This week, I went to The Norris Penrose Event Center and Bear Creek Regional Park in Colorado Springs, the site of Saturday’s state cross country championships, which start at 9:20 a.m. with the 5A boys’ race.

I wanted to get a first-hand experience of what the state’s best cross country runners will experience this weekend. The course is not all flat, not all easy, not something anyone can simply do without some serious sweating. It is 5,000 meters of rolling hills, dirt, prairie grass and a creek bed.

Full disclosure: I didn’t complete the course. I ran about a third of it, at least.

Again, I just wanted to get an idea.

The course can rattle your mind at first, as it begins at a facility that routinely hosts rodeos and horse shows. So, the smell of manure is always there. But once you get past that point, it’s mostly the trails of Bear Creek. It loops around, goes up hills and down hills and at times, rather winding.

One thing I noticed is the width of the path. For every day runners, there’s plenty of room, but I can only imagine that runners on Saturday have to be quick about passing up competitors since running off trail is a big no-no.

But what the course has over many other race courses across the country is the stellar views that include mountains, green grass and, on this day, a pretty sunset. I also got another bonus: goats. Hundreds of them are on a 10-day, weed-eating assignment to help keep a community garden chemical-free.

Runners eventually return to the Norris Penrose Event Center, which likely will provide some dramatic finishes.

I, on the other hand, wrapped it up prematurely and walked back to my car.

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