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October 11, 2010

Methuen's Haq is proud of her religion, rise as a runner

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The weather did not cooperate with Methuen freshman Marwah Haq back on Sept. 22.

Determined to do well for the Rangers in a dual meet against Andover, she was thwarted by humidity and unusually hot temperatures hovering in the 80s.

"That race was very hard," said Haq, who still came in seventh overall as the second Ranger finisher. "My mouth and throat got dry and it was getting hard to breathe."

Of course, no one likes to run distance races in the heat, but it's even tougher for Haq, a confirmed Muslim who wears a hijab head covering whenever she is out in public. It's a burden, but she wouldn't dream of not following her tradition.

"I'm used to it and it doesn't bother me at all," said Haq. "It's part of our religion and I believe in it.

"The reason we cover is we believe that hair is attractive to men and that can lead to things."

Unless it's hot, the hijab doesn't affect Haq at all. But being a Muslim was also a problem earlier in the season during Ramadan. That's when Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset.

"There were some days, mostly in August when it was so hot, I couldn't run at all — I didn't have the strength," she said. "When it was really bad, the coach (Bill James) let me run in the morning."

Despite what would seem like apparent hurdles, Haq has made impressive strides for a girl who was mainly a sprinter in middle school and wasn't even sure she'd stick it out in cross country.

Consistently in Methuen's top three, she was the Rangers' No. 1 runner in a quad-meet with Dracut, Billerica and Central Catholic and she finished seventh in the freshman race at the Bay State Invitational.

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