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SteelEagle

Stage One: Ponyville! Limber Limbs Languish No More!

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Stage 1- Ponyville Start Line
 

Ponyville is ready to host the Running of the Leaves once more, the traditional fall event falling prey to some unusual weather down south. Despite the whipping wind and unhappy clouds far off in the distance, the feeling is one of excitement. Competitors exchange glances, taunts, friendly bets and playful banter while hundreds of onlookers prepare to watch Equestria's most storied athletic competition. The leaves quiver with anticipation as racers warm up.

Beyond the normal Ponyville crowd that is itself feverishly excited, ponies from across Equestria have shown up to prove who is the best. Even griffons are racing! Truly, a wonderful day to be a fan of competition.

It is true that off in the distance, the clouds gather ruefully and with seeming sinister intent. A flurry of weather Pegasi activity and hurried discussions behind the scene did not detour this year's race coordinator from approaching the starting line. A bespectacled elderly stallion, he looks out across the starting line and sees competitors aplenty ready to shake the leaves from the trees and bring Equestria into a bright and wonderful fall.

"Welcome, ladies and gentlecolts, to the annual Running of the Leaves!" He started to enthusiastic applause and stomping of hooves.

"The Running of the Leaves is an Equestrian tradition, one that has stood the test of time and is one of our most important events. Today, we will bring Equestria into a wonderful fall and one of you-" He pointed at the competitors, "-will have yourself forever immortalized as this year's Running of the Leaves champion as a statue, a symbol for all future participants and for Equestrians everywhere!" Another thunderous round of applause as a weather Pegasi cantered up to the coordinator and in a hurried fashion whispered.

He nodded before finishing up.

"There is some poor weather deep in the Whitetail Woods, so be prepared to deal with it. Additionally, this year we are extending the route deep into the Roundbottom Hills. Canterlot is counting on us to do what their weather teams seem to have failed to do. But enough dallying about. The race starts in twenty seconds!" he finished and allowed the racers time to reach the starting line. He even gave them an extra five seconds, the pregnant pause intentional for dramatic effect.

"Get ready."

"Get set."

Silence.

He blew the whistle.

The Running of the Leaves had officially begun!

OOC- There is no special bonus or task this stage.

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After Applejack gave her hat to her sister for safe-keeping, she pounced from the start line at the blow of the whistle and gained her rhythm her hooves to the ground.  The path was dusty but soft.  The immediate clopping of hooves and talons started loud and synchronous around her, but quickly grew less repetitive and more continuous as the pounding of the ground shook the trees off leaves, leaving a wake of nothing but crisp orange and brown leaves and a thin layer of dirt.

 

Applejack was not focused on anypony around her in particular.  She was assuming Coloratura would be close behind.  Even the less athletic types should be able to keep up at the start, especially since Applejack herself didn't feel the need to run as fast as ponily possible at this point.  This part was all about learning your pace.

 

The clouds were ominous though, and though Applejack wasn't worried for herself (or her hat, which decided was best kept with Apple Bloom during the race), she was a little worried for others.  She remembered in years past some of obstacles and challenges during the running were not just inconvenient, sometimes they were down-right dangerous.  But for now, everything seemed fine.  Applejack briefly looked around her to get a glimpse of everyone else pounding the ground.  That small moment gave Applejack a feeling of satisfaction.  She loved the competition and she loved the community of running as a pack, and it made her heart glow.  "Yeeeeeeeehawww!"  She shouted, unable to contain her excitement.

 

Spoiler

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Coloratura had many ways to spend her time, if she chose to do so frivolously. Fame and fortune came with a great many issues and those were well documented and easily visited by any artist, who all had a penchant for the dramatic. It also came with an unending litany of possibilities. Did she want to spend her time on a cruise? In the sky? Perhaps in the islands for a few weeks, maybe overseas? She felt like she needed a break, that much was for certain. She had been broken upon the wheel of creativity for what felt like an eternity now. She had made three albums in the years since she had split with Svengallop. One of them had been a Countess Album, Flank to Flank, that had down very well but was markedly less successful than her earlier albums. Yesterday Morning, 2 A.M. Had been her first release as Rara and was critically well received, as was her next Rara album, Bookmarks. Neither had done as well as her earlier Countess works, but they did well enough to her.

She also toured a lot. A lot. Two different styles at times as well. Some crowds wanted only the Countess and while the memories of what Svengallop took from her all those years, the joy and excitement on the faces of her fans was not something she could deny. Others wanted Rara, and she had an admitted preference for that sort of stagecraft herself. The dual touring schedule and creative energy she spent getting them to work and the albums to sound just right had taken a toll. She found herself tired and stretched out, leaving it all on the stage and while meeting her fans, nothing for herself. This needed to stop, and thus when most expected her to use the end of a tour as cause to start work on a new album, she decided to use it as the perfect time to announce that she was going to take a full year break from touring and work on music for some personal time.

Ooh, the tabloids had something to say about that, didn't they? But she didn't pay them any heed. She had time to herself finally, some time to allow herself to get in touch with a mare long side denied: Herself. Ever since her break with Svengallop she had thrown herself into her work more than ever before. There was so much Rara wanted to say, had to say, that it took a while for her to realize she had thrown herself into the ocean without a life preserver. She trusted herself and found she could handle it, but had spent so long doing so that she still hadn't really had the chance to really sit down and explore who she was away from the stage. So now, now was the time...but what to do with it? The rumors flew, and she had to tell more than a few that she wasn't taking up a residence in a Las Pegasus Casino.

So many options available to her that it was a shock when one of the first things she decided to do was run in the Running of the Leaves, a storied tradition in a small city but certainly not something everypony in Equestria was aware of. She had first learned of it when she was a filly and Applejack mentioned it. She had always wanted to experience it herself- the rush of country air was something she missed as a filly herself from her youth in Mustangia. The joy of working with others to create something wonderful, something meaningful, something shared and something permanent was beautiful to her. She could also count herself lucky to have a good friend there, Applejack. She didn't know the mare a tenth as well as she wished did, and what better way to get to know a pony like her than in the throes of competition?

She knew Applejack that well, at least.

Rara trotted down Ponyville roads alone. No agents, no guards, roadies or groupies, though not without some far off paparazzi snapping their pictures. She paid them no heed- she was so used to it now that their presence was safely ignored most of the time. She continued her excited trotting to where the Running of the Leaves was being started, a bunch of ponies stretching and getting ready. And among the ponies getting ready was Applejack!

"Applejack!" Coloratura trotted up to her old friend, her voice carrying her excitement along without intent. Hard to keep it bottled up when it was overflowing!

Applejack was doing stretches at the starting area, saying hi to her friends and getting a feel for the competition. "R-Rara? What'er you doin' here!?" Applejack shouted with excitement but then tried to continue without being conspicuous. "I haven't seen you in a few moons. Are you still touring? Oh!" The strong mare lit up. "You must be doing a show for the annual Running of the Leaves. Is it after the running?"

The musical superstar gave a soft, lilting chuckle. Around Applejack, it was easy to find yourself a little lighter than air. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and it was something one welcomed with open hooves. "Oh, I'm taking a short break from tours and recording. I've been on such a pace...and I needed some time off, time to be me. As for why I'm here," Rara started pregnantly before, turning to show the 'number 37' on her flank, "I'm here to race! I remember this from what you told me as a filly. It sounded like so much fun, I had to give it a try!"

"Oh my gosh you are gonna have quite the experience. And after the running, your legs will be barkin' more than an old tree in the woods. I used to think this was only for the ready, but I have seen any and everycreature compete without too much problem." Applejack finished her stretches and popped up giving her torso and flank an athletic wiggle, and then placing a '27' over both cutie marks. "This event has been such a great community event to get ponies together to help the leaves to fall. The scenery will be grand, the trek of the wilderness will be adventurous, and the smell of crisp leaves will be pleasant, that is, if you are able to take in a smell while runnin'."

You could count on Applejack, from filly to mare, to espouse the country virtues of an activity and she didn't fail to make the Running of the Leaves sound any less appealing now than she did then. Rara found herself following Applejack's stretches very closely, and then promptly and somewhat absent-mindedly followed them move by move. When in Roam, right? "I can't say I've ever taken part in something exactly like this, but I'm just so excited to try. I don't expect I'll do as well as you- you've probably won one or two in your time-, but I'm just happy to be a part of something just so naturally good, so down to earth. But you know all about that, don't you?" she laughed. A few snaps of cameras off in the distance, the paparazzi lessened tremendously today but never that far off.

Applejack approached Coloratura and gave her a squeeze. "If you need help along the way, I will gladly help. Fer starters, might want to pin back that glorious mane of yours." Applejack pulled a hair tie from seemingly nowhere and gently tied her mane so that the curls would not be tamed by the wind. "Some years ago, Twilight taught that feather brain over there," she pointed towards Rainbow Dash who was probably giving autographs, "and myself, that slow and steady may not win the race, but its a good way for anypony to run since you're still getting the job done without using all of your efforts at once." Applejack hesitated but then humbly mentioned her own past mistakes. "Also, no arguing and accusing other runners of tripping you helps too. If you can keep your head cool, everythin' else follows suit."

Flash photography was seen from afar. Applejack noticed it, but instead of explaining the obvious, she wanted to ask a few questions. "We got a quick minute before the race starts. Mind telling me what you've been up to? Did you get a new manager? What are your shows like now? Still giving out hoofsies?" She chuckled.


She accepted Applejack's help blindly, perhaps too excited about the squeeze to really invite serious concerns about her manestyle. She didn't mind much; messy manes were all the rage with new popstars. That or some sort of hyper-unique one like Songbird Serenade. She listened to Applejack's advise and kept a track of it. Much of it seemed to bounce off what she heard from others on her way here and resonated well. The last bit sounded a bit too specific. She wanted to know more but thought better of prying so close to the race. "Ah, I'll make sure that I don't do that. Truth be told I'm more worried about tripping somepony else up on accident, but I'm sure once the run starts some of the butterflies in my stomach will find their way out."

Applejack asked about her shows. Would she be let down by her answer? Coloratura, Rara, gave a wearied sigh and laugh. "No hoofsies, though you'd be taken aback by how many fans are let down by that change. A lot, actually. I still tour as the Countess. The music I made...may not speak to me, but it speaks to others, and makes them happy. I also tour as Rara. I also release albums for both. It has been...very hectic, but very rewarding, to explore and share all of that with Equestria. How is Sweet Apple Acres? Every time I see apples I think of you, and they're my favorite fruit!"

Rara was a fantastic musician and performer. But Applejack could tell when she was nervous. Even though she was older, something about Rara was the same ever since they were fillies. There was always a part of us one could never shake. "Hey Rara, as long as you try to be yourself, I think you'll be fine. it's good that you decided to take a break to do a race though. Few ponies would count that as relaxin'." Applejack chuckled as she noticed the race officials getting closer to the start line. "Sweet Apple Acres is as great as ever. You should come by the farm sometime, I'll give you the best tour of the place, assuming Apple Bloom doesn't invite her entire class to see you. Although I bet you'd like that, hehe. And yes apples are the best. You know what they say. An apple a day keeps the doctor from having to make a house call so that he can tell you that you need to eat more apples."


As the officials began the countdown, Applejack reassured Rara. "Stay with me, Rara, and you'll be fine." Applejack leaned in on the start line.

She looked at the officials. It was time, for better or worse. "I'll have to take you up on that offer, win or lose, class or not," she said with a smile and a wink, gaining some distance between the two of them as she allowed her mind to accept the warm gift of Applejack's friendship. She would need it today, based on what the race coordinator was saying. But as long as she stayed close to Applejack...what could go wrong?


With that, Rara took her place at the starting line. She had made sure to stretch before she got off the train and then had a good trot on over, so she felt really good. She felt like she could conquer the world, but looking around her, she was safe in the knowledge that others felt the same. That meant she was where she needed to be. The cool country air, the sound of laughter and friendly boasting, and the great and wonderful sense of doing something that would leave such a positive impact. Maybe the tabloids failed to understand it but in that moment, she understood it. And that was all that mattered.

When the stallion said get ready, she hunched down, ready to run. It felt like a long-held dance move.
When he said get set, she tensed her muscles, ready to explode off like she would at the start of a Countess show.

When he said, go, she jumped off the line quickly. She had read before the race how it was smart to pace yourself but she had gotten caught up in the moment, the exhilaration of being around so many racers. Her legs pumping as fast as they could take her to start with, it took Rara a few moments to really dial back. She knew she had to pace herself, and pace herself she would.
 

OOC- Applejack by courtesy of riverhippo.

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"How long had it been since his last running of the leaves?" Boulder Dash thought as he walked up to the starting line.  This would be his first since he had returned home and the event still brought back memories of his younger years such as when his Pa won it back when he was a Colt.  He had given his mom a quick kiss on the cheek and gave his hat to his brother Rocky who hugged him for luck.  Boulder Dash returned it and motioned to where Applebloom and the Apple family where standing, causing Rocky to blush much to Boulder's amusement.

 

Boulder Dash walked over to the starting line to the cheers of the various ponies gathering and took his position right next to Applejack and Coloratura, winking at Applejack as he got in the ready position.

 

"This here's all in good fun ladies.  Important thing is to get the Fall season ready.  But if anything thing gets in yet way let ole Boulder Dash take the lead and I'll go through it like a bull in a China shop.  I wasn't known as Freight Train in my youth fer nothing" he said as the announcer said SET.

 

When he heard the word GO Boulder Dash shot off like a rocket and let loose a country howl with Applejack that echoed across the country.  "YEEEEEEEEHHHHHHAAAAWWWWWW!" he shouted as he went running across the line, smashing dirt and shaking trees as his large muscled form caused all matter of leaves to plummet to the ground around him.

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Now was the time! Now was the place! Time for kicking pony's rumps at this big ol’ race!
 
Fire Walker and her mother, Write Stuff had been training for the annual ‘Running Of The Leaves’ for the better part of the year. Not only did this give the two mares a good deal of ‘bonding’ time, it also kept the pair in tip-top shape! Unfortunately for Write Stuff, the poor mare was shut out of the race, a day before it started. The elder mare had stopped to enjoy some water from one of Ponyville’s drinking fountains, when a clumsy mare, who was not looking where she was going, crashed into the writer of military manuals (and occasional romance/action novels!) This caused Write Stuff to chip a tooth! Ouch! After letting lose a few foal-unfriendly words, Write turned to see her new ‘friend’, only to trip over her back leg and be sent tumbling down the fountain’s hill. After a short’s doctor visit, the poor mare would now have to sit out the race with a broken clavicle!
 
Fire Walker watched her family from the starting line. The small group of ponies held adorable cardboard cutouts of the red mare’s head that were attached to wooden sticks. Her poor mother tried her very best to keep herself positive. Hopefully things will go a little better next year! But for now, she was going to win this one for mom! After she waved her front right hoof at the group, the Pegasus mare found her way into the group of racers that stated to form. Among the rabble, there were a few ponies she recognized, such as Applejack. She was in the middle of chatting with a gal that looked rather familiar. She was nobody the officer would know, but for some reason, she knew the face..But from where? This was going to bother her, and she was far too polite of a pony to actually ask her. She also did not want to interrupt the farmer. There would be plenty of time for talking!
 
For the time being, she would quickly go through her mental check-list. While she did rather well during the last running, she still did not finish in first place! This was something she needed to correct. Her first correction was her very new running bodysuit! This blue beauty, not only looked good on her, but It also kept her wings secure and at her sides. One of a Pegasus pony’s biggest problems when running a race was the dreaded WING POP. Sometimes when hitting an rough spot, one’s wings find a need to release. Not only would this cause a runner to need to stop to relax their wing muscles, there was also a chance the newly released wings might hit a fellow runner! Bad sport! The sales clerk also mentioned the suit was made with an moisture-managing Dri-FIT technology! Which when translated from sales-lingo meant that she would stay dry and comfortable during the race. Her second correction was her bod! She was now in the best shape of her life! Thanks to her better diet and the local gym, the red mare was could have run circles around her younger self! She was also properly hydrated! As the pros would know, one should drink both water and juice a day before the race. This was followed by more water shortly before the race, and then a little bit before running. She needed her liquids, but did not want to have to stop at one of the nearby 'Porta-Pony-Potty's and ruin her chance of winning!
 
Her fiancé, Swift Squall was also in town and had planned on joining her in the race. Hopefully he would get here before it started! For now, she needed to get into the running spirit! She as fit! She was strong! All the other ponies were going to both see and feel her dust....At least after the Whitetail Woods section. Foalish runners always make the mistake of trying to 'win' the race at the start. She would be doing a lot of cantering. Canter-Lot. Oh, that's where they got the name from! Weird.
 
She needed to get her race face on!
 
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Growl!
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Well now, this was going to be a day to remember! This "Running" of the leaves was an event that had caught Taira's interest since he'd arrived in Equestria. It had been aged since he'd gotten to run in a good race, and it was the first time he'd get to run in one looking like this! The smell of the crisp autumn air filled the stallion's nostrils as he sampled this morning air, his exhalation producing a tiny bit of mist from his mouth and nose. Taira was already waiting at the starting line doing some warm up stretches, waiting for his competition to arrive... both the normal and abnormal. He couldn't help but notice a fluffy maned mare in the stands wearing a cheerleader's outfit. He'd seen that one in the company of Discord, most likely here to cheer on the chaotic lord in his first attendance.

 

He gave a bright smile to the other racers as he waited his invited challenge to arrive. That first pair of ponies seemed to have quite a lot to talk about so he decided to leave them be and wish the others who popped up the best of luck. Even the red Pegasus with the growling face got a smile and cheerful word.

 

Upon hearing that whistle, Taira scritched at his ear at the impressive volume.  Seeing the others take off though he realized he should probably be moving to! He crouched down and then bolted of towards the rest of the group with impressive speed, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake!

 

 

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0sLBSik.png Oh what an ill-begotten holiday. Leave it to ponies to invent a day in which the primary extracurricular activity is running, and more running! He would have words with a certain princess about their calendar. They needed more days off from scuttling about like critters! He was not one for wiggling around on four limbs. As the god of chaos he took a touch of pride when it came to disregarding the laws of physics and that would include plodding about on hooves, claws and all other manner of limbs he was given to! Now in Ponyville the god of chaos was hardly a surprising sight these days. His inwards and outwards manifestations of self and the occasional odd shopping trip hardly turned heads so when he donned a rather obvious ponysona to join the race it was a bit -- surprising. If nothing else the spirit was rather against hard work. Seeing as you have become a being of infinitesimal power it seemed prudent to lay about and sip tea while occasionally enjoying a weekend of of Ogres and Oubliettes. But from his stallion-cave of hobbies, odds and ends and into the outside world he would brave the predicable realm of nature! 

 

The unicorn shaped spirit wiggled his number around his body using his magic. The number read 42. "I don't understand what Fluttershy sees in it..." Though he complained on the matter he did delight in the oddity that was the shifting seasons what with the erratic colors and delightful crisp, fall air. "...alright so it is a bit quaint..." He cocked his head, hooves prancing to the starting place. His cropped tail and messy mane were a bit removed from his usual form of chaos, but it was Discord all right! 

 

Folding his ears back as he strode up beside the rotund rear end of a nosy kirin he would grind his hooves against the dirt in an attempt to find his hoofing. On honestly how did ponies walk on these things on a regular basis? He could see things clearly from the view of Rainbow Dash whose own hooves rarely, if ever, seemed to meet solid ground. He found kinship with her in that regard. With all the complaints he had about hooves and exercise one would think the chimera would find comfort in the bleachers with a box of popcorn and opera glasses observing the manic inclinations of racers and their no-do goodery to find way to the finish line. He always found competition between ponies fascinating. The distance they would go to find solidarity in victory, as if it made any more difference in their insignificant-- oh pish posh! Ponies were fun! And so were their games, he just wished they were bit more inventive. The only reason Discord was here was due to a certain -- challenge from an irritating visitor from the Neighpon region. Who did he think he was?! The spirit was old enough to be his great, great, great, great, great, ten times removed, great grandfather! He could handle a little race!  The spirit made a show of stretching his limbs, brows wiggling at a certain little cheerleader in the crowd. Far be it for him to disappoint  his fans. With the calls from the stallions it seemed the race would begin. An ear busting "Yeeeeeeeehawww!" was enough to alert Discord of a certain mare among the racers.

 

He winced and shook his head. "Oh for the love of gingersnaps..." The spirit muttered and began off in his trot. His head was raised up as he proudly shifted into a measured gait. "Oh, I see you're taking up the whole lane with that tail of yours." he bit out at the kirin, the bulkier brute, raced passed him. The spirit in disguise eyed him with those claret orbs, which drowned beneath his molten sclera. He tittered out and flicked his tail in a decidedly, challenging manner. 

 

The words were meant to catch the mist keeper off guard as he kept his less than -- speedy pace for now.

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It's been a while since Squall had an occasion for a proper workout. After days, weeks and months of meetings, planning and businesses trips he really needed to carve out some time for exercise.

And what better occasion for that then the annual Running of Leaves?

 

Swift held no delusion- he really was out of shape and he had to do something about it. While he honestly doubted that he will be able to grasp victory today, his finishing position should be a good indicator how much he needs to improve.

 

 

So of course he got be be late.

 

"....This is bad......" Squall mused as he touched down after a schute drop. The massive airship that took the noblepony over Ponyville - seeing how utterly massive the flying vessel was the weather ponies surely weren't happy with it's presence. Squall however didn't notice, he had other things to worry about.

"Better not to dillydally. Otherwise I will be left in dust. So many tough customers this year." unicorn mused, spotting audacious smirk as he begun to...strip.

Seconds later his trademark duster was cast aside, sinking into the ground with a loud thud and knocking the leaves from the tree Squall was standing next to. Just how much this thing weighted?!

 

To the delight of mares (and some not-mares) Swift wasn't wearing anything underneath his coat, aside from the metal bangles on each of his legs, forgoing even his usual sword.

The spectators weren't privileged to behold Count's ripped physique for long however, because as soon as he did a few obligatory stretches Squall shoot from the starting line.

 

Maybe this won't be bad after all. This couldn't be worse then running mile after mile through the scorched sands in the heart of Saddle Arabia....right?

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This brought back memories, of days back on the mountains when he and his brothers and sisters would races across the fields. He wasn't the biggest or most physically inclined back then... and he was allergic to a certain plant back on the field which ultimately made him fall behind his family when it came to speed. Here and now those issues were far behind him and wasn't a runt anymore.  He'd had many years of practice running from things and now was his big change to make use of that cumulative experience! His hooves beat fiercely at the ground as he ran, the long misty tail behind him trailing behind like a soothing flag on the breeze. Apparently it was so eye-catching that his most prominent competition had to remark on it!

 

Taira would glance back a moment as his opponent, "Figured you'd like a nicer sight than my old backside taking up your view, friend!" He would glance to the stands would a playful grin, "Hey, that mare in the cheerleader outfit has your face on her shirt! She a friend of yours... oh! whose she talking to?" Whether the spirit of chaos fell for his own distraction or not, Taira would again start pulling on ahead. In his excitement he would shout out the same phrase that signaled to the start of this race, mostly to psyche himself up and leave the older spirit in the dust!

 

Another stallion who was rapidly gaining caught his eye, mostly because of that flashy entrance of his. The nobles of this land much be richer than he thought if they could throw bits at such an eccentric introduction, "Hope you didn't spend your time arrangin' that, stranger! If you're in this to win, your appearance should be your last concern! Just a word from the old to the young!"

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"He he heeeeeeee!" The pink one squealed as she bounded towards the starting line!

 

"This is gonna be so much funny fun fun!" 

 

Containing herself was not a strong suit of the number one Party Pony and the Running of the Leaves seemed to be just that to her...a big PARTY! 

 

"Whose ready to PARTY!" She shouted through a megaphone, pumping up the crowd in the stands. "I mean whose ready to have a running party?!" She cocked her head. "I mean actually a running, dodging who knows what kinds of danger, through the swamps and plains and Celestia knows what else... um party...?" The words slipped away. 

 

"Wait a second! This doesn't sound like a-" She was cut off as the race officially started.

 

Pinkie found herself caught up in the jostle of racers at the start. They all seemed to be taking this so seriously! Soon they had all past her and she was left coughing in their dust.

 

"Wow! Cough hack! These are some hack serious cough racers!"

 

She looked around and noticed there were no other ponies in sight! 

 

"Aw come on you guys! Wait for me!" She switched into her jogging outfit complete with neon blue running pants and red sweatbands for her legs and brow. 

 

"Time to get serious!" With that she took off like a shot! It wasn't long until the others were back in view. She made her way up to the side of a rather determined looking red pegasus mare. She bounded next to mare, flashing her a smile as she bounced alongside.

 

"Hi there!" A leaf caught on Pinkie's nose and she blew it off. "Pretty serious race here huh?" She grinned with good humor.

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Earlier Today:
The Running of the Leaves huh? A griffoness looked over the flier she found. Hawke Dreamcrest, the griff, the myth, the legend, had just so happened to have been cruising through Ponyville enjoying the first days of fall when the particular parchment plastered itself across her peripheral. Hawke managed to stop herself from crashing into a tree by a split second to look it over. From the sound of it, it was an annual Ponyville race through the Whitetail Wood! The griffon hadn't even heard of something like this. But that was to be expected, she wasn't a common fixture in Ponyville, nor was there much discussion of Pony traditions in griffon lands. Regardless of that, if it was a race of any sort, she wanted in! She didn't like to brag...much...but speed pretty much was her middle name. Middle name accuracy aside, the griffoness wasted no time in zipping over to the sign up area to jot her name across that sheet.


It was at this point that the rules were explained to her. C'mon, it was a race, like she hadn't heard race rules before an-Wait no flying? Really? Hawke glanced back at her winds and sighed. That sounded really boring to be honest, but she had already signed up now. And if there was one thing Hawke Dreamcrest didn't do, it was back down from a reasonable challenge. Rather than going for the idea of trying her wings down — I mean really, how barbaric? — Hawke instead would take a detour into Ponyville before the race began. Sure somecreature would have a more comfortable way to bind her wings.


Now:
It was few moments before the race began and Hawke had just barely made it to the starting line. After a quick talk with a costume maker in town, the griffoness had managed to score a surprisingly comfortable skintight binder that both kept her wings snug at her side, and looked rad in the bright yellow with black racing stripes. The guy certainly knew what he was doing. Placing her number, 83, over her sides, Hawke would take her place at the starting line and look over her fellow competitors as the race coordinator spoke. Ponies and ponies and ponies and ponies. Mostly ponies, quite a few attractive ones too. Well it wasn't like she expected anything different. It was Ponyville after all. There were a few other creatures in the stands though it looked like. Students to that Friendship School probably. That's fine! If she ended up winning, she'd probably be the first griffon to win the Running of the Leaves...Not that she knew of any of the past winners, but hey. It made for good motivation.


As the countdown drew closer, Hawke let her body tense in preparation. She couldn't start out of the gate at full tilt, this was a distance race, not a speed race. Burning yourself out in the first hundred would cement you for last. Brisk but not breakneck. She could do both sure, but without flight to back her up, she was a little hampered. A little. The spotted hind paws of her feline half dug into the ground. A low rumbling purr could be heard by those near her. She lived for this kind of thing.

"Get Ready."

Her talons gripped the ground.

"Get Set."

Pupils constricted and eyes locked forward.


A sharp whistle breaks the still sound of the rustling leaves, and the next moment is filled with stampeding hooves with the griffoness' own paws and talons adding to cacophonous mix as she bolted forward past a few competitors. "Good luck to all of you!~" she would offer to the collection she passed a swishing tail was the next thing they managed to see in front of them. As Hawke gained ground, she would catch up to a pair of lovely mares keeping pace with one another. The griffon recalled mention of this being a friendly race so...why not be friendly! "Hey there ladies." she said as she gave a little wave of her tail and smile to both Applejack and Coloratura. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Name's Hawke Dreamcrest, it's nice to meet you two!" it never hurt getting to know your competitors. It made races more fun, less impersonal.

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It was hard to really make heads or tails of the gray stallion. He had the bite and wording of an older, angrier stallion. Her trained eyes caught some manner of dancer- no, a cheerleader- in the stands, sharing the cutie mark in her celebrations- and it made her wonder just who this stallion was. he seemed to take issue with a kirin who had arrived. A tall, broad creature at his smallest, the Kirin had taken up position in front of the stallion and after falling back to exchange words, took off again. She wasn't sure what was shared but it seemed that the competition, friendly at its core, could engender some manner of disagreement nonetheless. Rara watched how the stallion would respond, taken as she was with the slight melodrama playing out right then and there.

There was less melodrama with a well-built red mare who was running, growling, and striking a fierce presence. Rara made sure to give her space. She wasn't entirely certain if it was just the aptly named game face or if it was something more, but she wasn't entirely sure that she wanted to know more. She knew from her backup dancers that sometimes the most physically fit amongst the group had to really delve deep to want to push for something more than their standard, as high as it was. Was there another factor pushing her for more? There may be. Maybe she wanted to impress that hunk of a stallion who had dramatically entered from his own airship up above? Rara enjoyed that entrance- pomp and circumstance was part and parcel of her Countess tours, after all. She wasn't sure why he felt the need to do so for such a small event, but she'd be lying if she said she wasn't plumbing her mind of knowledge regarding who own airships to try and place him, It was an exciting development, at least.


Coloratura pulled back on the reins, slowing herself down to a healthy trot to keep with the pack and stick closer to Applejack. Around that time you could almost feel the ol' country exultation of yeehaw come blasting out of several locals, including a block of a stallion who had the look of a local. Both he and Applejack maintained a sense of the local country flavor that made this town so rich in tradition and sheer friendliness. Not to be outdone, Pinkie Pie was part of it, adding a level of energy and enjoyment that would be hard to match for anypony else today.

“Wow, look at this crop of ponies, Applejack. This event...sure does bring out all types, doesn't it?” Coloratura said while cantering alongside the pack at a brisk, but not breakneck, pace. They were joined in no short order by a griffon of all creatures, who sidled up to the mares with the familiarity of a fast friend. She introduced himself as Hawke. Hello Hawke! I am Coloiratura, nice to meet you,” she said, seeing a few ponies starting to pick the pace up ever so slowly and doing so herself.

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The stampede was just getting good, and Applejack decided to glance around her to size up the competition.  For the most part, the ponies and creatures involved were pretty normal-looking.  Rainbow Dash had to be somewhere in the pack, for minus the usual suspects, there were not that many athletic-types.  Perhaps since Twilight finished well that first year she was here, has changed the image of the running of the leaves from a physical challenge of pain to a participatory community collage of recreational high-speed hiking.

 

Among the racers, Applejack could see Rara right next to her, Boulder Dash yelling excitedly like she had herself, a noblepony who had just gotten into the race at the start, Fire Walker the fierce pegasus of strength, a large male kirin who Applejack did not know, a gray unicorn who had some strange-looking but familiar eyes, and Pinkie Pie towards the back talking to a leaf, while peculiar, was not all that unusual.

 

Coloratura had been able to pace with Applejack successfully.  She gave her a smile with pride, although she knew it would be the first test of many for a mare of non-athletic experience.  "Yeah, not only are there a ton of ponies like always, but there are a lot of other creatures here, too, even a kirin!  Word of friendly competition travels fast.  It's pretty amazin' how opening a friendship school for everycreature in Equestria has made everything else around here more inclusive."

 

In fact, a griffoness decided to greet Applejack and Rara during the stretch into the first parts of the forests.  "Howdy Miss Dreamcrest!  It's excitin' to see more non-ponies in this years event."  Applejack noticed the wingspan on Hawke and chuckled.  "As long as you don't decide to use wingpower to beat us.  I see several ponies sportin' them anti-wing suits.  Shame they probably don't come in griffon sizes, huh?"  Applejack jested as she smiled.  It was important for Applejack to walk the line of competitive intervention with the other racers without forgetting that it is only a friendly race.  But, bonding with new creatures near the start may pay off later in the race when things will likely get tougher.  "This your first year running the leaves?  I don't think I've seen you here before."

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The Running of The leaves, the annual event to help the transition towards Autumn. This was the first time Loose would be participating in it. She wasn't much of the runner, she was more of a fighter type, but as a resident of the town, she would have to do it at least once. She forgot what number they gave her. She didn't think it really mattered, it was just a method of tracking racers, but in a small town like this it wasn't really necessary was it?

 

She wasn't going to come first or second. Could probably settle for third, she didn't care, it was still higher than other blind ponies. Wait, did any other blind ponies participate before her? If not she would have to make a great impression. She didn't want to lead the pack, that was for sure. She didn't know if the course changed every year or if it was the same, but even if there were directions, what were the chances she'd be able to interpret them? It was a common trope in fiction that there's always a split path and they always go down the wrong one. Tropes like that seem to have a way of seeping into reality.

 

Wait, poor weather? Will it be relevant? This was a race, but she kind of felt compelled to help anypony that might get stuck along the way. She might be the one who gets stuck herself. She'd have to deal with it when it comes up. 

 

Was that Pinkie Pie she heard? She was in the race? Pinkie Pie had a clear defining voice that was easy to pick out over the crowd. Is reality bending nonsense allowed in the race? Pinkie was a good pony, she wouldn't use any of that.

 

Mouth hydrated and senses up and running, she made her way over to the starting line, or somewhere near it, where all the others were. "The course is clearly defined isn't it?" She muttered to nopony in particular. 

 

Upon hearing the whistle, she paused for half a second not to collide with anypony else, this wasn't a sprint, before launching off herself. She had to pace herself, not for the sake of her body, but for the sake of her navigation. "So, are there any other pioneers here? I probably should have asked that before we started."

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Boulder Dash kept his pace, wanting to maintain his balance if speed and fatigue for the home stretch.  All around him leaves fell down in abundance but even more around him was the multitude of ponies and other creatures that had come together to take part in his home town's most cherished tradition.  It filled him with a sense of pride, joy, and strength he hadn't felt since he left the Baby, and one since Princess Twilight Sparkle helped bridge peace in his family.

 

As he kept in pace with Applejack and the other pace leaders he suddenly spotted something in the distance that caught his eye.  Large rocks and chunks of dirt had somehow gotten in the way if the running path and not wanting any pony to be hurt, Boulder Dash grunted as he shot forward and took the lead.  "To Tartarus with winning if I can protect my friends and neighbors" he thought as he looked back at the other runners.

 

"All y'all stay behind me.  Time to clear the path!" he shouted as he cranned his neck and lowered his head.  Boulder Dash let out a loud whistle noise like a train suddenly slammed head first into the rocks, dirt mounds, and boulders.  Like an avalanche or an out of control rock slide Boulder Dash cleared a path with his big thick skull.

 

BAM!

SMASH!

CRASH!

 

Each rock shattered into dust, each dirt mounds burst into debris, and each Boulder broke like glass.  Yet Boulder Dash plowed on through with no hint of pain or slight of speed.  As he saw the path clear he slowed down smiling as he fell back into pace with Pinkie Pie laughing as he appeared unhurt or even fazed much to the surprise of his fellow runners.  

 

"Ha ha ha!  I love doing that!" he shouted proudly as several Earth Pony spectators slammed their hoofs and cheered loudly for Boulder Dash.

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Ahh yes. The time was upon us for the annual event of the running of the Leaves. The event itself was iconic to Equestria, just as much so as the Equestrian Games. For many, Actually, for a few of the super competitive, it was a competition. A race to prove to everypony else that they are the fastest pony on the ground as well as a pony that can endure the terrain and the turns without too much of hindrance. It was true, it was a race, but to many, it was just the experience of the event itself. Someponies would run in pairs as they caught up on things from their times apart and others, like herself used the race for training purposes. After all, what better way to get used to the weight of her new armor and increase her overall mobility of it than to run Equestria's most iconic race? She was sure that the path itself would be winding and would put her skills to the test on it's own. Ive not, she could always improvise on the obstacles like forcing her own hard cuts in some of the more open turns if she didn't feel there were enough hairpin or turns that would require such agility to get through unscathed. However she knew that she couldn't just make her own obstacles any other ways as magic itself was barred from the event.

 

She made her way up towards the starting line and she saw a few familiar faces as well as the faces that everypony would expect to be there. "Wait a second..." she said panning through the crowd of ponies. "Rainbow Dash isn't here yet? I know that she's a member of the Wonderbolts now... but this doesn't seem like something that she would miss..." she said to herself as she started to approach the line. Fire Walker was present as well as Swift Squall. She wondered if he would recognize her in the armor. she smiled, and as a test to see if he would or not, without saying a word she lined up next to him. She was in no means expecting to win this race today. Honestly the opposite... She actually felt bad for anypony that she would beat today. She wasn't as athletic as most were and she was racing in a set of custom fit armor. Something that was going to naturally slow her down already from the weight of it alone. She looked around though and she didn't really see anypony else that she recognized right off the bat as she heard the announcer count down as everypony was in their positions. At the sound of the whistle, she was off, and as expected, she wasn't off to a very fast start.

 

((Ice's Armor

Spoiler

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As the start of the race drew nearer, more ponies and other interesting creatures showed up to join the race. Fire Walker started to size up her competition. There were plenty of healthy runners in the race, but these were just grocery clerks and accountants. Applejack was there, and while she was tough as they get, she was too dang bulky to be a runner! The officer could probably run circles around her!
 
There was also what she was pretty sure was an kirin who was rocking a 'green mist' theme. Where had she seen such a creature before? He looked rather handsome and was in decent shape, but he might as well be a rock with legs in the race. He sort of reminded her of an old friend of the Pegasus pony. Muggo' Ale. He probably could run as quickly as the hefty bartender. Easy peasy. She could not help but notice a familiar looking pony through the corner of her eye. Was that Docket's nerdy brother Pocket? He shared the same bushy tail and mane...And scrawny unicorn body. But the coat and cutie mark were not the same. And what was the deal with his eyes?
 
And there was Ice Storm. Why in the world was she wearing armor? Fire assumed her lovable, but geeky fiancé would have done something like that. Or dressed up like some Space Trak character. Or whatever he called that show. Armor was good for fighting, but not for running!
 
There was also her sweet lil' Swift Squall. She loved him with all of her heart, but even that was not going to help him win the race. The officer should probably start picturing where she was going to put her trophy. It would look good in her office in the 'Castle Of Friendship' next to her other trophies. Maybe give the trophy its own wall. Maybe...Oh dear.
 
Fire Walker let out a primal yelp as a familiar figure bounced her way into view. Ah nutbunnies! It was Pinkie Pie! For some reason, she was fast. As in very fast. The red mare had seen the bubble-gum pony speed about Ponyville more than once and there was no way in Princess Celesta's sweet smile that Fire could even get near that gal in a race. And how could she move so quickly? Was she part mustang? Magic? Whatever it was, she would simply have to try her best to get second place. Silver was still nice.
 
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"Well, hello there Lady Pie.", Fire Walker was always rather respectful of the occasional bearers of the 'Elements Of Harmony'. They saved the world more than a few times and thus deserved it. "Well, maybe this isn't too serious of race, but it's always a good idea to be properly prepared before the whistle is blown!", she added, "Stretching is good, but you don't want to do too much as it temporarily reduces muscle strength." Wait a second. Maybe Pinkie could only run really fast in short bursts? That would make sense. Well, enough sense for the pink horse.
 
Oh no. Her eyes fell on another racer. It was a griffon, but the pretty kitty was part cheetah! GAHHH! Third place was starting to look like an reality. Bronze was still a nice metal. Thankfully, there was no more time to freak out over her competition as the whistle was blown! And off they went!
 
She tried to keep up an even pace, keeping herself in the middle of the pack. Now was not the time to get all speedy....Or to crash into rocks? What was going on there? The event planners should have cleared the track days ago! Did the stallion simply veer off the path? For the moment, she kept up with Pinkie. This probably wasn't going to last very long, but she could at least have a nice little conversation before her favorite unicorn caught up.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Alright...really tough customers today.

Squall recognized more and more ponies, and non-ponies...some of which he recognized, others he only heard about, and few that were complete strangers to him. And yet all of them proved to be a a very competent opponents....

 

Which only made noblepony's overcompetetive streak to flare up! Swift audacious smirk only grew wider., before being replaced by and expression of utter focus. But even his raising determination couldn't help wit the fact that he started later then others....If only there was something that he could...

 

Swift's gaze shifted towards the tree growing on the side of the road far ahead of him - one that still had green leaves. Was this Unyasian Rubberbranch Locust? He remembered the zebra warriors seeking this tree to make their bows.  What was it doing here, in the heart of Equestria? Question's for later. This could be just what he needed.

"Nice plates Ice..." Swift complimented the amor that his friend chose to wear for the race, as the ran alongside each other. "Could use some faceplate through. I saw some mercenaries that lost their noses or lower jaws because they assumed they don't need to protect their snouts. Also, they look awesome" he pointed out.

"This also remind me. You know what they say about racing? Just like fighting, you should not do it harder..." Squall mused as he jumped off-track and onto the branch of the locust.

"....but...smarter..." he added with effort, as he used the branch he landed on as a hoofing, while pressing his back against the other, bending it back more and more.....and more..and moooore....

 

 

And then he let go.

 

 

With a loud CRACK the tree limb snapped back into correct position, sending Squall flying like a projectile from this makeshift catapult.

 

"Hi Deeeeeeeeaaaarrr...." Swift greeted his fiancee as he speed just above her head, and further, through the dust cloud created from some boulder crushing action!

Swift's little stunt propelled businesspony just far enough that he moved ahead of anypony else. He landed with a slide, hard enough to rend the road beneath him before effortlessly shifting into gallop. Ahhh just like back in Leota....

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While Applejack was pacing and chatting with Coloratura, Hawke, and whoever else was around her, she could see and hear other commotions going on around her.  The path at the starting stretch wasn't very twisty, nor did it have a challenging incline.  This part of the race was typically the easiest, as it was just the path that lead into the forest where the densest part of the leaf-shaking was to be done.

 

When Boulder Dash smashed the rocks ahead, it impressed Applejack that a pony could have that kind of strength by themselves.  If she hadn't seen his his pelt color, she would have assumed Big Mac was under the influence of some love potion again.  "Hey Boulder, that was really nice.  But um, couldn't we have just ran around it?"  Applejack asked with a wink, a half-chuckle following.  It was nice to have ponies helping clear a path, but she knew that for the most part it wouldn't be necessary, especially towards the beginning of the race.  It might wear them out, too!

 

Just then a pony flew overhead of everypony and jumped into the lead.  Applejack shook her head.  "A little too early fer cheatin' don't you think?"  Applejack chuckled, knowing full well, she and Rainbow Dash set an unfortunate standard of practices a few years ago, when their ego allowed them to gain momentum and speed that had nothing to do with removing the leaves from the trees.

 

Applejack also saw Pinkie Pie zipping past her in typical Pinkie fashion, and in her wake was Fire Walker, a brash officer pony.  Applejack hadn't seen where Rainbow Dash was and assumed she was probably signing autographs still.  Maybe RD was going for the 'let everypony get a head start' routine again.  Applejack worked and ran well with a pony with a little competitive brashness, and seeing as Rainbow Dash wasn't here, Fire Walker wasn't a bad pony to help fill that void.  "Heheh, havin' problems keeping up with Pinkie Pie?  Don't worry, I've learned it's best to not compare your effort with hers, she works on a completely different and random level than any of us hard-workin' types.  Speaking of which, Fire Walker, you been workin' out?  You look good."

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Hawke chuckled softly and gave a little snap to the binder she wore across her back and wings as she ran. "Heheh, you don't have to worry about that. I wanted to make sure I wasn't even tempted to, so I had to find a place in town. Took a little while to get this thing made, I was almost late for the race!" That would have sucked in a major way. Not only cus the griffon would have missed a chance to be in the race, but also an ample chance to mingle! Hawke had opened her beak to answer the second question, but the sound of bashing and smashing and crashing not that far to the side kept her momentarily distracted...Now she had heard ponies could be hard headed but always was ninety percent sure it was metaphorical...noooow she wasn't so sure.


The griffoness shook her head and brought her focus back again. Couldn't risk that much distraction, don't wanna fall behind! "Yep, that's right! I was zipping past Ponyville when a flier for the race blindsided me. It sounded like fun so I thought I'd check it out. So far I'm not disappointed!" Hawke replied with a smile. Once again, before another train of thought could leave the station, another distraction zipped on by. This time in the form of a flying...or rather flung pony soaring overhead. Now really, cheating? Cheating at all was one thing, but this early in a race? Tsk. Hawke turned her attention back to her new acquaintances. Specifically the beautiful dark-maned mare. "And how about you, Miss Coloratura? I take it this is your first one too? Your muscle tone looks to be more for a dancer than a racer."

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Taira went wide eyed for a moment and let out an impressed whistle as one stallion plowed through several boulders with nothing but his skull! Earth ponies were tougher than he thought! When he'd learned of the connection that the hornless wingless ponies of Equestria had with the land he though that meant they could just grow things rather quickly. Never would he have thought that they could just run through stone! This was just incredible to behold! 

 

As he thundere down the track, Taira would slow up again to say hello to the competition. Every good racer had to save their best for the last lap, right? Couldn't hurt to get to know them! But oh, choices choices! That big fellow how busted rocks with his noggin seemed a curiosity but so did that orange pony with the drawl and snazzy hat, and even the pink one! Both of them had such a curious magical scent to them too. Last time he'd followed his nose to some exotic magic he'd made a very close friend... maybe lightning could strike twice. The barely winded kirin would slide over to the side of the group, seemingly remaining very careful not to fall directly behind Hawke. It was always nice to see another griffin, while it maybe a tad insensitive the old stallion couldn't help but call out. 

"Scuse me, Ma'am! Do you know a griffin by the name of Ashley?" He asked as he strode up beside the very focused griffoness, "Something about you reminds me of him..." His eyes momentarily glanced back to the orange mare in the stetson, "That hat's a ... they call it a Stetoosahn? It's really rugged looking! Any chance you know a place where I can pick one up to bring home? My family'd love to have a souvenirner from Equestria! Name's Taira by the way, It's nice to be racing all of you... and are you someone, Miss? I swear I've seen your faces somewhere. ... You and your friend with the curls in her mane!"

 

 

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Coloratura wasn't an expert racing mare by any stretch of the imagination, but it seemed like the mare in some rather fetching and form-fitting armor didn't have the right idea. It was wise to wear something lighter, was it not? Maybe the mare in question was an expert in marathons and was trying to make it easier on everypony else. Oh, or maybe she didn't care about winning and was using the extra mass as a means to ensure the leaves fell? It was hard to say, but Coloratura figured that it didn't matter how the leaves fell as long as it was within the rules. Good for the armored mare! As she sped up and got closer, Coloratura gave the armored mare a smile and a nod. The more the merrier, right?

From behind somepony asked if there were any other pioneers involved, a question that left Coloratura in thought for a few moments. Of course the simplest answer was the easiest, and Coloratura surmised she was asking if there were any other 'western' types, likely from one of the frontier cities. Coloratura couldn't answer that honestly. But Coloratura had done enough benefit concerts and hospital visits to know some manner of eye disability when she saw the telltale signs. She wasn't a medical professional by any stretch, but she could only guess that the mare had some manner of vision loss. She found herself shading closer to the mare instinctively. “I'm not so sure if there are any other pioneers here. My name is Countess Coloratura, but you can call me Rara. I'm happy to meet you!” She said, pitching her voice so as to be perfectly recognizable from her interviews and shows.

Before an answer could be lodged there was a loud crash from in front of them. The large block of a stallion had sped up and annihilated some rocks and boulders that were in the path. It was very impressive. Applejack seemed to think it was unnecessary but Coloratura didn't know how narrow the path was supposed to be. She figured that it was about to open up. Either way, he showed some courage and strength, right? She was happy to not break her hoof so quickly on a boulder, she knew that much! “That should make the path much clearer, thank you!” she yelled out in encouragement before her attention was stolen again.


Pinkie Pie and the red mare were in conversation, the always excitable Pinkie Pie seeming to keep pace easily so far. The red mare looked very stressed, at least momentarily, at this fact. Did they know one another? Did she know the flying stallion? Wait, the flying stallion? Wasn't that against the rules? This overly rich stallion seemed to have a fixation on the sky. She didn't want to dive into whatever personal issues he had that drove him to be such an attention seeker, but would simply allow herself the luxury of following in Applejack's hoofsteps.
 

“I guess you're right that...word...of friendly...competition gets out fast. So many different...racers! Didn't think I'd see a unicorn stallion try and fly this early. Isn't that cheating? You'd think ponies'd be more inclined to...focus...on the leaves,” she chuckled, recognizing that it was unlikely. “It looks like it is about to open up. Is it safe to stay clumped up ahead?” she asked the expert, just as the griffoness recognized her. Well, she supposed others likely did. They were just somewhat more demure about it. “Right on both accounts, Ms. Hawke! Can't..say..I've ever won a marathon like this before, but I think I'll shock someponies! Excited to try and see for yourself, right? Same...here!” She said with a smile, this time just as the Kirin took notice! It was all happening so fast, it was hard to respond.

Actually, no, it wasn't.
“Thank you, though my curls aren't as curly now! This one-” she shoved her head towards Applejack, “-thought it was a good...idea...to taper them down a bit for the race. She's probably...right! My name is Coloratura, a pleasure to..meet...you, miss...?” she yelled in between taking breaths, not wanting to lose too much ground because of chattiness.

Ahead of them, the path indeed started to open up as they started to exist Ponyville and lose all track of civilization. They were soon going to hit the next leg of the race- where difficulty truly began!

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Pinkie grinned one of her big friendly grins. The kind that other ponies couldn't help picking up on. She was trying to spread the happy to Firewalker. She just seemed so serious! Well, she had learned some ponies were just that way. In fact it wasn't bad at all to be serious. Yeppers, she had learned a lot in the pat few seasons. Being an Element of Harmony did have its serious moments of course so she had found more understanding because of that. She would always be the Party Pony though and nothing keeps the Ponk down for long!

 

"Aw! Lady Pie! That's a nice rendition of my name!" She listened to Fire's explanation of stretching and nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yeah I know how important stretching can be! One time Gummy here," She pointed to the tiny gator that had just emerged from her puffy hair. "Got the worst cramp one time when he swam too soon after eating a cupcake!" She looked upwards as far as she could and gator leaned over between her eyes. "Isn't that right Gummy?"

 

The gator blinked his eyes one after the other and then swiped his tongue up over them. "Yep! Stretching is super important!" She continued on talking as if they were having a coffee together instead of racing. "Oh! Whoopsie! I guess we should get back to racing!" She bounced off and waved to Firewalker. "Talk to you later!"

 

She bounced through the crowds of runners, a huge smile on her face. This was really fun! She glanced around wondering who she would talk to next when...

 

BANG BOOM CRACK!

 

The big ol' stallion butted a bunch of rocks into rubble!

 

"Wowee!" She bounced next to the big guy. "That was pretty neat! Wouldn't want to see what you could do to a pinata! There wouldn't even be any candy left!"

 

They continued onward and the familiar sights of Ponyville began to drop behind them. Gummy looked ahead, clinging his little claws into Pinkie's headband. It was time to head onto into the wild unknown!

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Applejack was glad to hear how the word about the running of the leaves traveled to all parts of Equestria, the borders of the nation, and even beyond the principalities of where equines live.  "You just wait, Miss Dreamcrest, you ain't seen nothin' yet."  Applejack, and many ponies for that matter, had come a long way from assuming all griffons are rude and obnoxious creatures.  Although she had just met this one, the pleasantries were shining fairly bright without much complaint.  The earth pony wondered what kind of challenges would bring out the real rapticious nature in Hawke.  Maybe it would be something to make her angry, or just a mood swing of some other sort that is triggered by an awkward situation.  Applejack didn't normally think on these things to this extent, but seeing as how strong Hawke looked, Applejack might as well see what makes the chick tick if it means running with her down the stretch.  Might as well test the griffoness with the salty country-isms of competition.  "But, the only zippin' you'll be doing requires some fancy hoof-work when we get to the densest parts of the woods."  Applejack looked down briefly and pondered.  "Well, talon and paw-work in yer case, heh."

 

The large kirin paced closer to the group around Applejack.  "Howdy!  Name's Applejack.  What, this here hat?  I've always worn this type of hat ever since I was too small to wear it, back when Pa would strut it himself."  Applejack's eyes welled up slightly.  "I wear it to remember him and Mom.  But also, because it makes me look good and keeps the sun outta mah eyes when ah'm workin' on the farm."  Applejack took a break from talking to concentrate leaping over a large tree branch that was lying in the middle of the road.  After the jump, she landed with a painless grunt and continued on.  "I get the ones with the front of the hat styled out so I can see through the hat a little without having to tilt it.  I buy these at a store in Ponyville, but I tell ya what, you beat me in today's race and I'll give you mine right off my head."

The Countess remarked on her curly hair and how because of Applejack's suggestion, wasn't so curly at the moment.  Applejack just rolled her eyes, but during the roll, her eyes caught the unfamiliar pioneer pony who appeared to be blind that Rara shortly chatted with.  She was behind most of the runners, but she was trotting in the wake of the sound of the stampede.  Applejack would continue to run the race, but she decided just for a short moment to come to a complete stop and make sure the pony wasn't having trouble.  The dust settled around her hooves as she threw her voice towards Loose Cannon.  "You alright hun?  You're following the path pretty well so far!  Have you ever run an event like this?"

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0sLBSik.pngThe easily beguiled spirit, given to distracts of such, turned a head to the field to find his fan section. Well he wouldn't mind making a habit out of this. He wondered if he won would he gain more of a following? Reaching a hoof up to brush back his mane, the spiky mess that it was. The grumpy, old stallion was already the most handsome here, why wouldn't he have the biggest section? In fact it was quite queer that there weren't throngs of ponies already cheering for him. His brow quirked before all four hooves clapped to the ground, having had only that moment where none of his toes touched to soil. Resuming his trot he let his horn light with the glow of his uniquely colored magic and filled a few bleachers with copies of Discords all holding banners, flags, and wearing matching jerseys depicting the grey magician. He smirked and puffed his chest out.

 

"For such a wide load, you certainly haven't got the crowd on your side!" He spat before he resumed skipping along.

 

He would take note of a rather lithe looking griffon. The sort was surprising given that he was unaware of any monetary prize and, what was more, is that wings and magic were two things renounced by this Earth Pony tradition. He supposed it made sense for Applejack to go what was it she said? Hog-wild, during such an event. He did not recognize Coloratura, but he wasn't one hip to the pony world of fashion and bourgeois. He supposed it suffice to say he has seen her, that is what was cool now right? Never meeting a pony and learning about them. Also something involving rampant photography while hidden in their bushes... It seemed Icy was to join the fun which, he had not expected given her new position had left her far less fun and busier than the Apple in question! Tempting thing to tarnish. He would be sure to interfere with her at some other time. Bouncing along his ears perked when he caught the red ruby Fire Walker giving in his form a peep whilst about with the pink bit of candy gal. Wiggling his brow the stallion cocked his head. Certainly she recalled him, the grumpy old magician. No the outfit wasn't complete was it? He looked forward and with a pop and spark a raccoon appeared atop his loony crown. It looks to had fall from the trees in its surprise! And what was an event without Squall taking Discord's attention away?! But now was his chance!

 

Be it wholly by accident, or by the Star's will the dark-furred spirit tripped! Boulder Dash's calamity lent in on the whole parade of show for the spirit tumbled forward and sent the raccoon flying in hopes if would land and latch to the kirin ahead of him. Pushing to his hooves and a bit of faux dusting off the disguised spirit resumed his manic trotting as if nothing at all, had occurred. 

 

Ho ho ho!

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