There is something I have not told you. Something I left out of my recent race report. It happened during the final uphill of the course, the third mile.
I had seen this kid, who couldn't have been more than 15 years old, who earlier in the race blew past me with a haphazard stride. Now, he was walking on the side of the road. Of course, he started running again as I approached, sliding back into the pack a couple stridelengths ahead of me, but I still felt a boost of pride knowing I could catch up to someone almost half my age. Bum knee and all.
That giddy feeling vanished when I sensed a presence to my left. The kid felt it too. As the translucent girl bounced past me, the kid looked over his shoulder with a look of dread. He was about to feel what I felt. Perhaps worse, as I could tell he knew this sprite.
No, not that sprite. More like this ...
Her head reached no higher than my rib cage and I'm sure I had her beat by 100 pounds. She had one of those annoyingly efficient, effortless strides. How the hell do you compete with that? The kid picked up his pace, but he was already done for. In truth, I felt sorry for him. It may have been his first time. It wasn't mine. I'm sure it won't be the last. You get used to these things.
I saw the kid in the finishing corral. His face was flushed. I saw the sprite too. The kid approached the sprite without words but a look of defeat. My knee felt good.