Runners seem like such an austere bunch: the gaunt physiques, the crack-of-dawn workouts, the fact that they find running fun and addictive when most of us would classify such an activity as self-inflicted torture. But these serious striders know how to let loose every now and then, too. To wit: the ninth annual Mud Mountain 5K Cross-Country Classic happening on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (I-270 and Route 157, Edwardsville, Illinois). A yearly benefit for the local high school's cross-country teams, the $20 race takes place -- miracle of miracles -- at night, with the 5K run beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by a 1-mile fun run at 7 p.m.
Pristine exercisers, don't let the race's name scare you. The moniker "Mud Mountain" merely comes from an old SIUE cross-country course. Nowadays the 3.1-mile path traces over some mud-packed trail areas, but it mostly crosses open fields, woods and hills. This year, though, the event really lives up to its name: There's a big ol' mud pit waiting for runners once they pass the finish line, and each participant gets a free snapshot taken post-dirt dip under a banner reading "I Survived Mud Mountain 2004!" For more info call Jerry Davis at 618-692-9171; for a race entry form, visit www.ecusd7.org/ehs/athletics/xcountry_flier.pdf. -- Rose Martelli
Free Bird! Not Skynyrd, the birds!
Birds in the wild are constantly fighting the way Hollywood portrays them. Either they're a swarming bunch of crazed murderers, à la their Alfred Hitchcock namesake, or they're assisting ladies with their ribbons and clothes in basically every Disney movie. What a disgrace! Get to know who these feathered friends really are at two events this week at the World Bird Sanctuary in Lone Elk Park (North Outer I-44 near Highway 141). On Thursday, August 5, visit the Sanctuary's amphitheater at 7 p.m. for the free Birds in Concert show. And wake up by 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 7, for the $3 to $5 Sunrise with Songbirds hike (reservations necessary; bring binoculars). For more info about both avian-reputation-building events, call 636-225-4390 or visit www.worldbirdsanctuary.org. -- Alison Sieloff
Second Serb-ings Serbfest promises food, music and food
One of the benefits of having a large immigrant community is the plethora of cultural festivals the summer brings. For the true fan of outdoor ethnic dining, these festivals are happy hunting grounds full of delicious, spicy, affordable lunches. Serbfest, held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 7, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 8, at the Holy Trinity Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church (1910 McNair Drive; 314-776-3262), keeps the good-eatin' times rolling with two full days of outstanding food made specially for the event by parishioners. In addition to the food, there will be strolling Serb musicians and tours of the church led by the parish priest. But back to the food: home-cooked raznici (pork kabobs) and cevaps (beef and pork sausage)? Son, the line forms behind Mr. Night, and you might want to bring a chair, because he's sportin' his elastic-waistbanded buffet pants. -- Paul Friswold
Ah, to be young enough to still get the really good giveaways at ball games. The first 12,000 children younger than 12 through the gates at the 12:20 p.m. Cardinals-versus-Mets game receive an official collectible Fredbird stuffed animal, courtesy of the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Adults love Fredbird too, you know. Tickets are $9 to $55, and Busch Stadium is located at Broadway and Walnut streets, but just for another two years. Call 314-421-2400 for more info. --Paul Friswold