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The Setting

And here they are! Its a long stretch, and everypony is s for the finish line! So many ponies neck and neck- this is what you saved that burst of energy for! Put all your effort into this final sprint! Who will win this years Running of the Leaves? It's been a fantastic race everypony, but it will be up to the judges to determine the winners!

th_Kinoicon.jpg -Lampwick 'Flicker' Jane-

Things had gotten crazy. Really crazy. The race had turned from a race into... well, not really a race. Ponies and creatures alike had stopped to unbury each-other from the puddles of sap, sometimes banding together into groups of three or four to remove one another from the sticky hang-up. For all that it had seemed- the race had stopped.

Lampwick was intrigued. She slowed down and found herself pushing, or pulling a few stuck ponies here and there until everypony was free. Once a group had freed all of its immediate surrounding ponies, it would then move to another group of ponies. What had once been a small crowd of ponies was very quickly turning into a dense pack again, much like the pile-up at the bridge; except this time ponies werent competing to get across- they were helping one another so that no-pony was left behind. It was then that Lampwick realized the underlying attitude and lifestyle of the ponies gathered here in around ponyville for the Running of the Leaves- while the race was competitive, everypony here deep down was a team player. While many many ponies had become stuck in the sap- not one pony would be left behind today- even the leaders of the race had stopped to help a very cross looking griffon.

Lampwick had always been a rather solo-going pony; loving company, but always finding peace within her own thoughts. Witnessing such... spontaneous teamwork, and loyalty to what seemed complete strangers, found a little nook in Lampwick's heart, and warmed it. In a way it all made sense- the trees here needed the ponies, and the ponies needed the trees; much like the ponies in the race needed each other. Lampwick felt like she was witnessing something important, but she couldnt quite put it into words, or thoughts. All she knew was that it made her feel good and warm somewhere deep down; and when it came down to it, it was moments like these that Lampwick traveled for. The little unexplainable. beautiful, mysteries in life that really made her feel alive.

Lampwick had just finished helping a group of ponies free the last of the trapped, and for a long moment it seemed everypony had stopped. Heads began to turn towards the last stretch of the race when a large shadow passed overhead- the large balloon from the beginning of the day rose out from behind the tree-line, and in the distance voices and shouting could be distantly heard. Squinting ahead, Flicker could see a large banner, and a growing crowd of ponies along the treelines, waving and shouting.

The finish line.

A few leaves fell from the still heavily-laden trees. It seemed everypony was noticing all at once. Lampwick saw other ponies begin to move from the pack, starting up to a trot. Her legs burned and the excitement she had felt earlier exploded in her chest. This was it! Rearing up, Lampwick gave a loud whinny amongst the large group. "Lets go everypony!" Lunging forward into a full sprint, Lampwick burst towards the front lines of the group at a gallop. Her mane whipped in the wind with her speed, and she had never felt so alive and fast. Here it was, the last leg of the Running of the Leaves!

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This was it, the last stretch. No major obstacles were in the way. Just the path the race took, the ponies around him, and the griffon. Zephyr was going to give it his all. The short rest after helping the griffon out of the tree sap certainly wasn't enough and his legs felt like they were on fire. Again his wings ached to stretch out. No, he couldn't though. Zephyr tried to focus on just the race. It was hard though, he thought about how sore his legs were going to be for the next few days. That wasn't going to be pleasant. At least all he had coming up were deliveries and that was mostly flying. There were no big social gatherings coming up or anything of that sort. No expectations of him after the race. Yes, his legs would just have to endure this last stretch of the race, though he knew he wouldn't be as fast as he would like in this condition.

Glancing around, he was pretty certain that first place would not be his. There was still a chance to get in front of the griffon though and that would be his top priority over winning the race. He started to see that it was highly possible that the griffon could actually be the one to claim first place. Hmm... if he could just get in front of her, that would be prevented. Despite seeing his odds of winning, it was a fun race and he got to meet some new faces, even a griffon. Though she was pretty rude, it was still interesting to finally meet one. He'd never challenge straight to their face again, he thought back on how silly that gesture was, being within clawing distance like that. Then again, would the griffon really strike a pony, unprovoked, in a place like this?

With most of the track and competitors behind him and very little in front, he began to sprint. This was it... the finish line was close.

((OOC: Yay for forum notifications. :P ))

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Survey, on the brink of collapsing, having been stung by hornets, having dirt smeared all over his hooves and his flank, having forget his bag twice, being tackled by a mare, having akward conversations and being in panic more than once. He however made new friends, and was almost done with the race. He was panting and coughing as he tried to find the last of his strengths to reach the finish line. He groaned, as he dragged his hooves forward, seeying several ponies pass him. He looked around for Mobius and Douglas, however not seeying them. He quickly checked his back, and looked at the Puzzle Cube, the only thing that he managed to keep with him the entire race. He gave it a smile as he slowly tried to make some speed. He was certain that he would not win, but he made sure that he would finish, making him run even faster however making him pant even more heavily.

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Number 34, Klondike, had experienced many things during the race that he would have never expected. He had met the proprietors of Sweet Apple Acres while bringing a bag to a nervous unicorn and at the same time learned a sailor’s chantey from a most peculiar pony he had not seen since then. He had given himself bold spots on his flanks when he peeled off the duct taped pieces of paper with his number, trying to protect them from getting wet while he crossed the river, only to end up floating down it himself to avoid hornets. He had watched an amazing breathtaking sight when the leave fell above him in the Whitetail Woods, and had quickly learned the value of keeping his eyes forward when he single hoofedly full-body bucked a tree clean of its leaves.

Klondike had had many adventures during the race and had met many ponies as well. But the events that stood out the most to him in his thoughts were the ones in the previous two legs of the race. Taking the scenic route up a mountain, he had felt for the first time true jealousy towards his pony Pegasus brethren. Hogging, he felt, the beautiful sight that was the whole of Equestria from up high. A sight, that unlike Pegasus pony, he had to work hard to see. Karma had him slip and tumble down the opposite side of the mountain.

He had somehow managed to survive with but a few scrapes and bruises. Scrapes and bruises that even now reminded him through shots of pain and threats of bringing him down that he was by no means an iron pony.

And yet, even through the pain and realization that he would not be able to move come next day, he had changed a bit during the race. Something inside him that had lain dormant for a while had been awoken and had helped him to understand something about himself.

Klondike would always be an absentminded pony, always focusing on the job in front of him and blissfully unaware of the ponies around him. The prize to pay for a foal-hood spent in curiosity and the desire to learn how things worked, and repair them when they no longer did. It saddened him a little to realize this, but at the same time he found comfort in a single truth.

Klondike was no longer a foal with dreams, but a grown stallion with the means to hold on to those dreams. Dreams that through hard work, had led him to become Ponyville’s repair pony.

Even if others came, it would always be an honor he would uphold. Repair ponies do not only fix for the sake of functionality, but for the sake of helping their pony brethren. A lone cause powerful enough, to him at least, to pull him from his thoughts and his own desires so that he could help the ponies near him. As he had done when he turned back from the race and went back to help the ponies stuck in the syrup.

He had forgotten this truth about himself, as he slowly stopped going out of his way to help the ponies he encountered. He had sub-consciously felt they no longer had anything to teach him, and as such, were no longer worth the time to help properly. He had forgotten his own purpose as a repair pony.

“Not any more…” Klondike grunted as a twang of pain threatened to hobble him to the ground as he continued to push his galloping gait to go faster and faster. His nostrils flared, seemingly giving off steam as he summoned every bit of strength he could muster. The slight sugar rush from the syrupy treat hadn’t last long and had worn off fast.

“Come on Klondike… go! Faster!” The jockey in his mind urged him on. “Win this! You can do it. You gotta win!”

Klondike narrowed his eyes and looked to the competitors to each of his sides. So many ponies, so many tired expressions with their sights set on the finish line up ahead. He could not help but smile as the jockey riding his thoughts got bucked off.

“HAHAHA! I don’t think so! I don't gotta do nothing!” He called out as he let out a toothy smile and looked at his fellow competitors and bellowed out.

“Come on everypony! Win or lose, it’s 75% off on all repairs for whoever crosses that finish line courtesy of Klondike’s Jingling Satchel Repair Shop!”

His muscles burned as he somehow found more strength to pour into his thundering gallop, the finish line looming in the distance.

In a flash, he had crossed it. The last few seconds before crossing that line on the ground had turned his vision into a funnel with nothing to his sides, behind, or in front of him. Nothing except for a particular small grain of sand that laid beyond the finish line itself. A small grain of sand that signaled he had finished what he set out to do.

No sooner had he crossed the finish line that his body finally decided it had had enough of his shenanigans. As if switching a switch, Klondike suddenly found his whole body non-responsive. And, like a rag doll that had just had its strings cut, at full gallop no less, Klondike barreled into the ground and soft grass beyond it. He came to a halt on his back, sucking wind like it was going out of style.

“woo-hoo…” He tried his best to cheer and raise a hoof, but it turned out to be nothing more than a slight unnoticeable twitch instead.

There had been no sound. The thundering of his own heart in his ears had tuned everything out. He could still see ponies crossing the line in thundering droves, making the ground beneath him feel like it was splitting apart. And, as he looked at the sight, he could not help but smile. He would probably go out of business if every pony decided to take him up on his offer at the same time, but he didn’t care. Instead, he found the scene pleasing.

“I think I’m done… I only want one thing right now.” He tiredly said to himself as he rolled over onto his side and struggled to lift himself back up. He was searching for something, the crowd of ponies had thickened as more and more of them crossed the finish line.

“Ah, there you are…” He finally spotted what he was looking for.

Off to the side, his satchel filled with his tools laid among the rest of the saddlebags and satchels that were left behind. Finally wobbling onto his hooves, he shakily made his way towards it and finally plopped right on top of it causing it to give off its oh so familiar metallic jingles as his tools struck against each other. He lazily stuck his muzzle into the flap and brought out a hammer in his mouth.

“Come on… We have a sign post near a mountain side to fix. *yawn* Maybe right after… I take a nap… Don’t really feel like *yawn* taking that route again… next year…

Number 34, Klondike, tired, scraped, dirtied and battered, fell asleep with his head resting on his satchel, and his hammer still in his mouth.

He would wait till the announcement of the winners woke him up, or somepony came up to him.

(OOC - This was tons of fun. Had to edit post to add a part I didn't notice I left out. Guess I have to proof read this more than 5 times :-| )

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hi hi

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Pushing, pulling, prodding and poking, the race had managed to extricate itself from the sap covered trail and out of the forest to the outskirts of Ponyville. They had all worked together, everyone bringing their own unique talents and doing something that no one could have accomplished on their own. Some of the complements she'd gotten made her blush, especially Bramble Rose's exuberant thanks. She wasn't sure she deserved them after having almost left everyone to their own devices, but she hoped she was sincere in her appreciation.

Ginger Mint couldn't believe the race had taken so long, and at the same time was a little surprised that it was over already. Nothing was going according to plan today though, she hadn't even planned on being in the race at all!

Does that mean that all the nonsense that's happened so far just counts as one thing?

The towering silhouette of Ponyville city hall came into view first, and she could feel the adrenaline start to surge at the sight. She was getting close to the end of what had seemed like an eternity of sore muscles, gasping for breath and danger all around; and the promise of rest was intoxicating.

She crossed one last little hill, barely more than a bump in the road and there it was, the finish line! It was within her sight, within her grasp, all she had to do was reach out and cross it.

"Here we go!"

Everything else faded into the background, her eyes fixed on the black and white checkered line in the dirt. She knew that the road was smooth and well maintained here, it was the same road she came into town on yesterday, a far better stretch than the rough dirt path of the Whitetail woods. No errant roots, no scattered stones or stumps, no puddles of sap or unexpected surprises here.

She didn't bother looking around her, didn't check to see if there was anypony in front or behind. It didn't seem to matter what her position was, only that she was giving it her all. Even though she hadn't pushed herself this hard in years, she knew she was doing her very best.

The firm resolve of the earth beneath her hooves shook the subtle yet compelling flicker of warmth in her chest and it roared to life, spreading throughout her whole body. Her aching muscles and twisted ankle were forgotten in the rush of excitement. If she hadn't been breathing heavily, she might have let out a cry of exhilaration.

She was dancing with the wind. Each spring from her hind legs carrying her as effortlessly as a fluttering leaf, and in turn the air wrapped itself around her; tugging at her mane, driving the sweat from her brow, and making her eyes water. She could just barely discern the sound of cheering spectators over the roar, and as she drew near, their shouts blended together into a song that pulled her faster still.

The path beneath her hooves stretched into a blur and she lost track of time. Her mind shut off to every thought but crossing that line, until of course, she crossed it.

Suddenly, the world came rushing back to greet her, and she barely avoided greeting the world right back by planting her face in the dirt. Instead, she wobbled to an unsteady walk, worried that if she sat down now, she'd never get back up again.

Her eyes clamped shut, her strings had been cut, the comforting warmth faded away leaving behind the cumulative ache and pain of every step. She opened her mouth to yell, but couldn't find her breath, so instead she just thought the words as hard as she possibly could.

Sweet merciful Celestia, what was I thinking!?

She slowly walked in a circle while her heart settled down a little and she was able to catch her breath, almost bumping into a few bystanders here and there as she struggled to keep herself from wobbling back and fourth. It took her a little bit to spot the water stand, but once she did, she hobbled over and picked up a cup in her mouth. She even managed to catch a little bit of water in her mouth when she tipped her head back, and wasn't too upset that the rest of it splashed all over her face. She just wanted to collapse.

They were cheering for everypony...

She had been a part of something bigger than herself though, and she knew this moment wasn't for her alone. They had worked through unexpected hardships together, and as much as she wanted to stand there feeling sore for herself, she knew she couldn't rest just yet. Instead, she shook some of the dust out of her coat, trotted back to the finish line and began cheering for the runners that had been behind her. She didn't even bother to check what place she'd finished in, it could wait until later.

"Come on! You're almost there! Just a little bit more, you can do it!"

Even though she felt wasted and drained, she doubted that anything could put a damper on her spirits. And maybe when her heart stopped racing too, she'd find a nice place to stay and take a long, relaxing bubble bath.

Mom will probably want to hear this story. I just need to figure out a way to keep her from talking me into another one... But I guess that'll have to wait for tomorrow, or maybe even the day after.

She was much too exhausted to finish her travels today and she resigned herself to stay in Ponyville the night. As awful as her muscles ached right now, she knew it would be even worse tomorrow, and besides which, she vaguely remembered promising somepony cookies and tea.

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Galloping like his tail was on fire, Mojo zoomed into the lead pack. His race strategy seems to be working perfectly, except for the fact he was not currently in the lead at this time. Tears still flowing from his eyes, the Paint stallion was now more than ever determined to win this race. He breathed a heavy sigh when he watched Lyra pass him. But what could he do? It wasn't HER fault that he had gotten the wrong meaning from her note. It was all on him. Gilda was still running ahead of him. Hopefully she had learned something about kindness and mercy having been rescued from the tree sap by kind ponies. Mojo was now way ahead of Shanna. He had admired the way she had helped him and other competitors during the race. Rose was running ahead of him too. Poor filly felt really bad about knocking him and Lyra down a short time ago. Hay, accidents happen, right? Klondie was up ahead too. It was very nice of him to dig that ditch to break him free.

Mojo had met a lot of nice ponies in this race, and he wished all of them could win. However, this WAS a race after all and only one could be champion. The hippie brony was now running all out hoping that champion will be him.

He was now galloping alongside Douglas and Ginger Mint. Ginger was certainly a pretty mare, but he wasn't about to make the same mistake with her as he had made with Lyra. However, he couldn't help wanting to be friendly to his fellow competitors.

"It's been quite a race, hasn't it?" he spoke to them as he galloped between them. "Don't think there'll be a single leaf hangin' on the trees by the time we're all done!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jubilee was flying fast to catch up to her Paint stallion friend. When she did reach him, the blonde maned Pegasus noticed that he was no longer crying and actually talking with other ponies as he ran.

"That's ol' Modge! Looks like his 'peace power' even works on him."

Louise LaMare continued to assist Hoss in helping other ponies. Now that they all seemed to be racing again, and cured of the ill effects of Poison Joke, the brown Pegasus mare flew up to him.

"Well Hoss, what do we do next?"

Back at the starting gate bleachers, Misty was nearly finished eating the wonderful snacks Madam Bistro had prepared for her.

"Thank you SO much, ma'am, for all this delicious food!" Misty said with a smile, "Even Snails is enjoying himself!"

"Now dat you are finished, fraulien, could you PLEASE restore dee viewing portal?" Professor Krashkop pleaded.

"STOP PESTERING HER!" Starflower objected. "Can't you let her enjoy the rest of the day?"

"But Starflower, dis vould be an excellent opportunity to study dee dynamics of interdimensional travel, if Misty can do it again! Think of all dee good it vould do for all ponykind!"

"Leave her alone or I'll use MY magic to wrap your snout closed!"

"You vill do no such ting to me!"

The longer the two stubborn ponies kept arguing, the angrier Misty got. Her horn was now glowing brightly as she leapt to her four feet.

"ENOUGH! STOP ALL THIS BICKERING! I WISH WE WERE ALL AT THE FINISH LINE SO YOU TWO WOULD STOP QUIT FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER!!"

POOF!!!!!!!!!!

Instantly, the entire company of ponies gasped when they found themselves standing near a different set of

bleachers. The Professor and Starflower were dumbstruck as they had witnessed what Misty misguided magic had just done. Even Misty couldn't believe what had just happened.

"But... but.... I.... how did I.... can't be...." the yellow unicorn stuttered nervous, her horn no longer glowing.

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Having come out of the last leg relatively unscathed, although still surprisingly occasionally smudged with tree sap from near-misses with puddles of the stuff on the trees, Big Mac was running strong with his head held high and his thunderous gallop unwavering as he found himself on the final stretch for home...applebloom perched his back gently after her breakdown...he'd heard something about applejack and trampling or somesuch, but he honestly had no idea what the girl had been talking about - having not noticed the prior 'intrusion' by Appletini.

His focus at that time having been set upon outdoing her in the race...tunnel vision seemed to run the family.

He hadn't had much chance to question the girl, as he had needed to focus more on what was in front of him at the time - and this was the final stretch, where he needed to be equally as careful not to steer into other ponies or get too in the way so as to become a near-blockade.

He'd ask more about the whole thing later, he resolved, but right now he had a race to run!

Taking a deep breath, he looks around him slightly with lazy smile, taking a deep breath before giving out a deep bellow of a cheer...

" Come on, Let's go Everypony - YEEEEEEEHAAAAAW! "

He then dipped his head down, tucked in his tail and let himself go...he knew Applebloom would hold on as he increased in pace - there was no stopping Big Mac now as he charges down the straight that led them to the last few corners before the finish line...this was going to be one heck of a final stretch!

it was time for Big Macintosh to get serious!

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It was quite a hectic and crazy race for Clutch since he started. Unlike most of the others, he kept on going without much of a break at all. Sure, he had a rest once near the start and he had a couple of nasty falls here and there, but for the most part he just wouldn't stop for anything. Some of his decisions for making up time like jumping over the bridge seemed crazy and stupid when he looked back, but they seemed to help him out a lot when it came to catching up more and more with those ahead of him. Even with his poor body on the brink of collapse, he was determined to cross that finish line as fast as he could.

This was all going through his mind as he finally got out of that stick forest he recently almost ended up permanently stuck in. "Welp, I guess momentum save my flank for once" he said with a smirk as he entered the clear path that was ahead of him. He breathed a simple sigh of relief when he saw what was also ahead of him: The finish line, and all the stands filled with Ponies. He had been able to make it pretty far considering where he had started at, and had overcome a lot of crazy stuff. Still, there was only one thought in Clutch's mind now that he saw the finish line at long last: Get there as soon as possible.

He saw several competitors that were gaining ground closer and closer towards his location, so he knew that this final stretch would mean he'd have to give it everything he had left in him in order to hopefully claim victory. As such, the Diamond Dog lowered his body a bit and began running faster and faster, until his legs and feet almost became a blur, as did almost the rest of him. The strain on his body this was causing was almost enough to make him cry in pain, but with the end of the race being so close, he was willing to put up with it for one final burst of speed.

All he could see with how fast he was moving was the path ahead of him and a blurry checked flag. Everything else was too blurred for him to be able to see. That checkered flag grew closer and closer very quickly, until finally his body passed it, having finished the race. Clutch was glad to see that he managed to finish the race, but he still had a problem: He was going too fast to slow down on his own, and a tree was right in his direction.

As such, all he could get out was "This is GONNA HUUUUUURRRRR-" before smacking right dead center into it. That was definitely going to leave a mark later on. For him though, that collision knocked him out cold. For now, he could rest with the knowledge that he finished the race....but when it'd come time to wake up, good FATE will he be feeling pain everywhere.

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((ooc: i hear this song when think of this moment of the rp event, suited it quite good despite the lack of relevance :D ))

~One-wing~

"THE FINAL RUN! haha! didn't think id make it this far!!" somehow one-wing had managed to keep up with the ponies in the back of the herd. he had no intention on winning, no it was too late for that....but he was going to make it to that line, and then come in last place.

with this intention in mind he broke of from the herd, running along side it while still staying on the path. He made a very sprint filled run, trying his hardest to make it to the finishing line, determined and full of energy he passed a couple of ponies.

he was almost there, he was almost across the line, when he came to a slide and stopped right next to the finish. Without passing it he sat down, smiling at the other racers as the ran across the finishing line. There was no way he could win, so he decided he was going to be the last one over the finishing line. (Today sure was one heck of a race....and it sure was fun!....maybe I'll get to be with next year if I'm lucky!) He sat there watching, patiently, and smiled as the other competitors finished the final leg of the race...

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It would be hard for Rose to describe the state she finished the race in, when all was said and done. She didn't concentrate on the other details, not really. She didn't pay much mind to the other racers, other than to avoid bumping into them when they got in her way. All she wanted to do was to cross the finish line. That was it.

A few details managed to stay in her memory anyway. There was the constant ache of her joints and muscles as her hooves slammed into the ground in a rapid pattern. Her pulse crowded out the other sounds in her ears, driven by a heart that practically bounced off her ribs. Strands of hair hung down into her eyes, and only her blinking kept them from blurring her vision. She caught a glimpse of Inkwell running alongside her, a worried look on his face. He'd only come to see the last leg of the race up close, as it turned out. So that was why he didn't look so sweaty.

Once or twice, when she could see the finish line ahead of her, plain as day, she stumbled, falling on her knees as one of her leg muscles cramped up. Her only thought in response was of irritation, though she remembered that it was only then that her high temperature became apparent. It only took a few seconds to get to her hooves again, but that was enough time for a couple of ponies to pass her for good. She wouldn't be taking the gold this time, she knew, but as long as she could just... finish!

Finally, moments after she heard the indistinct shouting of another competitor, Rose saw the checkered line in the ground pass under her feet, and all of her obsessive drive to gallop forward melted away. She took a few more steps out of habit, feeling as though she floated in the air between each one. Her serenity lasted but a millisecond before she felt her side hit the ground. The world turned over; cheering spectators became topsy-turvy and the sky spun around the edge of her vision. She felt her head lift up as her legs stopped her rolling around, then slump against the ground again. Before she knew it, her eyes snapped shut.

"Rose!"

Inkwell rushed back over the finish line to the prone form of his sister. He felt the heat radiating off of her body, and he could see a few scrapes here and there through a matted, sweat-stained coat. One of her hind legs twitched every few seconds, just enough for him to notice. He felt her shoulders and looked at her head, frantically checking her for injuries or sprains or bruises. His untrained eyes could see nothing wrong, so he just looked at Rose's face again. "Rose, are you okay? Rose? Rose, come on! Say something!" He pressed his ear to her mouth.

*snrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr*

The sound of snoring made Inkwell balk at first. Then he started to laugh. "Oh, Rose," he said, "you had me worried for nothing! Come on, let's get you out of here..." He grunted and lifted her body atop his, balancing her lengthwise on his back. Good heavens, did she ever stink! Both of them would probably require a nice bath after the festivities had ended. Come to think of it, he hadn't shown her the local spa yet. He bet she'd just love that...

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Legs aching. Heart pounding. Out of breath. Tired. Lyra felt all these things and yet pushed them to the back of her mind as she emerged from the sticky sap coated forest, having miraculously avoided getting stuck like so many of her fellow competitors. The final straight was coming up and the most amazing thing had occured. Lyra was near the front of the pack! Only a handful of ponies (and a griffin) were ahead. Despite her exhaustion, the litte aquamarine pony grinned. She could do it! She could make her target of being in the top ten with just a little more effort. No! Why settle for 10th? 1st place is just a little further! Could she make it? She didn't know, but she was going to try her very best, no matter what!

For the first time since starting the race, Lyra looked back at the number on her flank. Lucky number 7. It couldn't have been that lucky, or she wouldn't have been knocked off that bridge, or ran into that tree, or been knocked over by a careless pony. Still, it had gotten her this far. As she ran faster and faster, she looked around at the other racers. Some she recognised as Ponyville residents, others had clearly come from further afar. A few stood out more than most.

She was running alongside the yellow pony with the brown mane that she'd met briefly at Sweet Apple Acres. Lyra spat out the twig in her mouth, the sweet remainder of Klondike's super sticky surprise lollipop, and moved up to speak to her. "Hey there!" she said, in between her heavy breaths. "I guess you made it out of the apple farm without any trouble. It's great that you got this far! But you know..." she added "I saw you running with your eyes closed earlier. You shouldn't really do that. You'll run into things. Trust me on that!" she turned her head to indicate the bump she got earlier. "Besides, you'd miss the falling leaves!" she added with a smile. Nodding to her she moved on.

Ahead was Klondike, the big blue pony she'd pulled out of the way of the stampeding racers after his fall down the mountain. "Hey!... Klondike!" She called out, starting to pant greatly now from the exertion. "Thanks for... the lollipop... but next time... please ask before giving them out... okay?" as Klondike let out his proclamation of 75% off for the winner, Lyra let out a short chuckle. "Awesome!... When I win... I'll have a lot of leaky pipes waiting for you!"

Still runnning, another of her new friends caught her eye. Carrot Fields was focused on the race, his expression one of determination. Lyra pushed herself harder to get alongside him to talk. She couldn't quite catch up, but she was close enough. "Carrot!" she shouted "I lost... you after... the woods! I left... a note for you but..." she stopped, partially to catch her breath again, partially because she wasn't sure what Carrot had thought of it, if he'd even seen it. "...Nevermind! Let's catch up... after the race... okay? I want to know... everything!" she said. She would look forward to it.

At this point Lyra realised that talking was sapping her energy and leaving her breathless, but there was one more pony she wanted- no, needed to talk to. Mojo was catching up fast. A good look at his face revealed the truth- he'd been crying. Lyra felt as though a weight had dropped into her stomach. How could she have just ran off like that? She'd been selfish, deciding that she'd rather run away from her problem that face it directly. Maybe she could fix it. She checked ahead to make sure her course was clear, then turned back to the paint stallion.

"Mojo... I'm sorry!.. I... I never meant to hurt you like that." She looked forward again to make sure her path was still clear, then turned back. "And... I shouldn't have run away." Her eyes were downcast a moment. She wondered if this would really make things better between them. She still wanted to be friends. She was running out of breath and the finish line was approaching fast. "Let's talk after the race... okay?" she finished.

Her eyes back on the prize, Lyra decided that there was one last thing she needed to do. One thing that would drive her forward. "As for the rest of you..." she spoke to the other racers in front of her, though she wasn't sure they would hear her. She then called up her magic. The amount used was nothing compared to the physical energy she was spending, so she wouldn't be slowed down. An instrument appeared, a ghostly, semi-transparant bugle hovering in the air before her. It was only partially real and would only last a few seconds... but that was all she needed.

"As for the rest of you... Get outta my way, 'cos I'm gonna win!

"

If you can't a little fun in playing, then what's the point in winning?


gallery_299_36_40135.png

"OH! That is a dandy cutie mark, Miss Tiara!"

Diamond smiled at Granny Smith's praise of her cutie mark. At least the old mare had taste. But unfortunately she also knew the beg red stallion that Applebloom was holding onto.

"Awwwww! Ain't that sweet? Good ol' Big Mac's helpin' his little sister! I think that's wonderful!"

So that was Applebloom's brother? He was huge! Diamond remembered seeing the blank flank's sister at her cutecenera, but she didn't know that she had a brother too.

"Do YOU have any brothers er sisters, Miss Tiara?"

"No, it's just me, Mom and Dad. Well, mostly just me 'cause they're always, y'know, working and all." A pang of sadness suddenly hit her. Questions like that always did that to her. She pushed it back down inside. No time for that now. She glared down at Applebloom. Diamond didn't come all this way to see her pass the finish line. She was supposed to lose and in a spectacular way. "Hey, Applebloom! You know you can't get a cutie mark for cheating, right? Let's see you run! If you can!" Maybe that would get her moving on her own four hooves.

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That was it! The final stretch. Off in the distance, Seeker could see the finishing line. There were several ponies ahead of him, he knew that now.

'I can't give up now!!' he thought, 'I will give it my all til the end!'

But all the dirt and the stuck leaves did take a toll on him, even though he hadn't noticed at first. Nonetheless, now that the trees broke up in front of him, forming an avenue in front of him, some kind of instinct kicked in, causing him to further accelerate. If he had bothered to think about it, he would have known that the final stretch was still too long for a sprint, but he didn't. He had never run like that! He didn't want to stop now.

Another thing that had slipped his mind was Blacky. Where did that dog go?

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As Mojo neared the finish line, he spotted Lyra. For a split second, he was ashamed to talk to her because of the bad conclusions he had jumped to. But then, he heard her words and realized he needed to apologize to her.

"Capital idea, Miss Lyra! See ya after the race!" the Paint stallion said with a warm, friendly smile as he passed her by. "Sorry love, but this is still a race after all!"

Mojo went all out, galloping with every bit of energy he had. All he could see now was the finish line. There was a shower of leaves falling as Mojo ran through and crossed that white line. Unable to come to a complete stop, the hippie brony skid and slid wildly until a giant net sprang up and caught him like a fly in a spider web, absorbing his forward momentum so he could come to a stop safely.

"What the hay?" he shouted, getting sudden flashbacks of his experience in the giant spider web, he began to kick and struggle trying to free himself until he looked around at all his friends.

"Starflower? Misty? Professor? How in the name of Woodstock did ya all get up here?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Don't fight it, Mojo!" Starflower called out to him. "It's alright! Misty created this net with her magic to catch you."

"Sorry I didn't quite get it right," Misty apologized as she nodded and made it vanish.

"Dat vas a wonderba race you ran!" Professor Krashkop said as he and Starflower caught Mojo so he wouldn't fall to the ground. As they did, Jubilee and Louise LaMare flew up to him.

"YOU MADE IT, MOJO!" Julibee shouted seconds before the airborne Pegasus tackled him and gave him a friendly hug. "Er, no offense Modge, but you smell like sweat, tree sap, leaves and bugs."

"JUBILEE!" Louise scoulded, "that's not a nice thing to say!"

"But it's the truth though," the blonde Pegasus giggled.

As the group enjoyed a happy reunion, Sheriff Silverstar approached the judge's stand.

"Howdy judges! Referee Silverstar reporting to you. There was a LOT of cheating done by one of the racers, a griffin I believe y'all know. Here's all the photographs I took of her as proof of her repeatedly violating the rules.

Meanwhile, still in the chariot, Granny Smith heard Diamond Tiara's teasing of little Applebloom and grew very angry.

"NOW I remember you! You and that snooty filly friend of yours have been the ones teasing my Applebloom about her lack of a cutie mark! Y'all can call me all the names ya want, but I draw the line on my grandkids! That tares it! If'n yur parents ain't gonna give ya a good spankin', then I WILL!"

Displaying remarkable strength for one so old, Granny Smith held Diamond Tiara down as she grabbed a long branch from a passing tree, making it into a crude switch.

"Time fer me to start yur lesson in behavin'!" the lime green mare shouted as she began spanking the purple filly's behind repeatedly.

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The sap had cost Gilda some critical time. As it were now, it seemed at least five ponies had a clear lead on her. This included the colorfully maned unicorn who had tripped her. It also contained the strange pony who had given her the final push out of the sap by placing his hooves in spots Gilda might have been angrier about if she hadn't been so desperate at the time.

Most irritating however was the fact that somehow the green pegasus that had earlier challenged Gilda had now somehow pulled ahead of her. She wasn't going to sit by for that. When he had issued his personal challenge, Gilda hadn't thought for a second she stood a chance of losing to him. Yet now he was a few strides ahead of her. Sure, she owed the pony for helping her out twice, but that didn't mean Gilda was going to lie down and let him win the challenge. At that moment, simply beating the green pegasus was almost more important to her than the entire race.

This was the final long stretch. The race was almost over. This one seemed to lack any of the obstacles of the previous few. Gilda's feet were still sticky with sap and leaves were sticking to them as she ran. She didn't have time to care. She couldn't let up for an instant. She thought to take flight and take the lead that way, but with the green pegasus ahead of her, her pride wouldn't let her. She was going to beat this pony with nothing but her speed alone.

Gilda suddenly found a burst of speed within herself. She could do this! She rushed forcefully ahead, desperate to take the lead. She remembered her days back at Junior Speedsters. All the little races against Dash she had lost... This wasn't going to be like that. None of these lame ponies could stop her.

"You're all going down, lame ponies!" Gilda called out. She focused on the green pegasus. "Especially you!"

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Ashton galloped along the edged of the track with the runners. At least a few of them seemed to have some fight left in them. Which was good. Even if he wasn't an official competitor, it didn't mean he couldn't run as hard as the rest of them. A little nagging thought stuck in the back of his head that he only had to run about one-third of the race compared to the others he was nowhere near as worn out as the others. That was true, but if he 'did' have the endurance as well as the speed he was sure he could be a top competitor and he wanted to prove it. Not to the other runners but to himself.

He think he had it for speed. Whenever he ran he seemed to be able to at least keep pace with the faster racers. He passed a few slowpokes as he came around the final curve. He could see the stands in the distance. He tilted his head forward and started sprinting trying to catch up with the leaders. The Griffin and the others who had helped her seemed to be starting to tire out. Of course they had been leading the pack the whole race it couldn't have been easy.

He heard her yell out a taunt to the other racers. She seemed to have quite the pony vendetta. Strange she was in pony lands if she had this issue. But he couldn't focus on that. "Less talking!" * "More running!"

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Big Mac could finally see the finish line - Apple Bloom still on his shoulders, partially sleeping as he finally made it to the final stretch, his legs taking him the fastest he could possibly manage - Yeah, he hadn't managed to come in the top 10, but he felt that he'd still had one heck of a race...he was truly quite content to know that he'd taken part in what proved to have been one of the most memorable running of the leaves in quite a while...

He knew Granny would be up around here - he could hear her excited shrieking about something...he wasn't sure what she was saying, but he could only assume the race had stirred the old mares heart into a state of excitement. The Stallion and his passenger finally make it across the finish line - a little achey, but no worse the ware for the experience...and he couldn't have felt any happier for finally being able to just take it easy for a moment and relax...

" Now, ah Wonder where mah sister is... " Big mac says, looking around for Applejack - he hadn't seen her for a while and was starting to wonder just how the race was going to place her - she was a hard working fast runner, and he knew that there was no way she'd end up dead last. The Apple family had certainly been well represented this year, and he was feeling pretty darn proud of them all - although he wasn't sure that the filly on his back had really been ready for the race. Still, no harm had come from it and she seemed to have held up just fine...just as he'd come to expect from his little sister.

Next year, perhaps, would prove to be an even better race than it was this year...and he couldn't wait to see how it turned out!

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He pressed forward as hard as he could for the last stretch. He darted down the path with a sprint, seeming to create a draft of wind in his path. Something amazing happened though. He was now in front of the griffon. He grinned when he realized he could actually do this. He could beat the griffon and could maybe show her some humility. He glanced back to the griffon, who was only a few paces behind.

"Not a chance!" He retorted back at the griffon. Zephyr thought about taunting her in some way, but quickly realized that wasn't very sportspony like and would only end badly. Besides, he wanted to keep everything friendly as much as possible. He turns back to look in front and continues his hard pressed sprint to the finish. Wow did his legs ever burn badly now. It was starting to rise up to his lower body. He realized quickly that he had pushed himself too much, he was no runner. Zephyr knew he was in shape, but to do runs like this was different. His body told him to stop, but the race was nearly over and he knew if he pressed on just a bit more, he could beat the griffon. At this point, that's all that mattered.

'Come on legs, we can do this, the end is just up ahead!' In the far distance, he could see the finish line. A wave of relief went through Zephyr. A relieving grin appeared on his face and with added determination, he continued. Which of the two would end up through the finish line before the other? The anticipation set in...

((OOC: This will probably be my last post for the race itself. Seems a fitting end for Zephyr's part in it.))

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A wide grin was spread across Mobius' face as he thundered down the home stretch, his head lowered with his ears flattened back against his head in an effort to make him as streamlined as possible. The pale gold Pegasus was galloping full force, eager to make up for all of the time he'd happily sacrificed earlier in the race, as well as to drive himself to his absolute limit. As he charged down the track, he shifted his gaze around, trying to see who all was near him. There was, of course, Douglas some ways up ahead of him who he had began sprinting down the home stretch with, but it seemed that Survey had fallen behind them in their hasty charge.

He did notice, however, a familiar pony rapidly gaining upon him; the kind orange Earth pony, Applejack. The Pegasus couldn't help but grin to himself since the last time he'd seen her in the race was back at Sweet Apple Acres, and she had ran off while he finished his juice. The stallion had expected an athletic pony like her to be way ahead of him, if not already across the finish line. Thinking back, he figured he probably only managed to squeeze ahead of her thanks to taking the right path back at the last section. "Hey again, Miss Applejack!" he called out, his friendly - even playful - grin still on his face, "Thanks again for the juice back at Sweet Apple Acres! Kept me refreshed all on its own."

Taking another quick look around, he saw some specs far ahead of the rest of the pack, his grin dying down into a smirk. It seemed that the odds of him, Douglas and Survey being among the first were pretty low. He couldn't say he minded, though; this race had ended up being more about enjoying the scenery, making friends and simply having fun facing the various shenanigans that had occurred over the course of the race. If he could go back and start it all over again, knowing everything that would happen and how he could win, he would make the same choices.

Besides, not winning the race this year meant he had a reason to return next fall to have a re-match with the wonderful ponies he'd met, and a fresh race against no doubt many new faces.

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Gilda smirked at the green pegasus' retort. She was surprised. This pony was a good competitor. Gilda was looking forward to beating him. She just needed to find the speed for it. For the hundredth-something time in her life, it was all coming down to whether or not Gilda could outmatch a single pegasus in speed.

Just as Gild was about to come up with a witty retort for the green pegasus, she noticed another pony nearby. It was the orange unicorn who had been the first to offer a hoof in the sap incident approach her. He seemed to say something to her. Was he encouraging her? Why would a pony encourage a griffin to win a pony race? She didn't get that at all, but she had to admit he was right. This was no time to be wasting on useless banter.

"Right!" she started back as she rushed ahead. She could do this. To prove herself to Dash and all the ponies she was racing again, she could win this. She just needed to stay focused.

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Shanna galloped hard, finding herself losing ground steadily as her muscles burned. Her number, 44 was still there, but had run a bit after being doused with that oily stuff earlier. Her wings threatened to drag on the ground as she forced herself to run.

She wanted to get as close to Gilda as she could before the finish line, or at least catch up to 'Breakah' (Beach Breaker).

At least Klondike's present was finally dissolved enough for her to talk.

She neighed excitedly at Savory Delight as she passed her. "Dont'.. give...up..."

Shanna suddenly noticed everyone was still doing their hardest even after helping each other.

She yelled at Beach Breaker up ahead "Breaka!' -huff- I'm coming up -huff- behind you! Dont give -huff- up! See you..-huff- at party..."

Suddenly Lyra just ahead of her made an illusory bugle and sounded the charge as the race baloon soared over their heads ad over the finish line. She took heart at that and gave it her all "Yeah! Go Lyra! We'll see who beats -huff- who!"

Shanna ran, caught up in the growing excitemnt, watching Big Mac running with Applebloom on his back, and The green pegasus who had been challeneged by Gilda as well. He was much closer to Gilda than she was. Pones were thundering across the line ahead of her.

The Diamond Dog she had been getting glimpses of since the race began suddenly plowed into one of the poles holding the banner, knocking himself out.

"That...had -huff- ..to hurt!"

Closer and closer, Mojo ran across and was caught by a net before he could fall over.

A grey unicorn covered in leaves and wearing protective goggles wobbled in near her as she got closer "Um hello..."

She could not see who was first but she was stunned to see someone was obviously wiling to be last for some reason.

She gave a bewildered look at the brown pegasus with a damaged wing as she passed over the line.

Shanna staggered a bit, her legs feeling like noodles as she loked around the milling ponies She nosed at some of the ones whohad already sat down, panting "Get...up! Walk for..half hour! Cool down or your muscles will get stiff. Get up! Walk!"

She bumped her brother as he landed "Help me, keep them walking.. Let their muscles work out loose.."

Shanna caught up with 'Breakah' "Move, walk, just a little more.. or your muscles will be sore.." nudging him with her nose.

To her surprise, she spotted the zebra with his cart of jars talking to the officials. She waved a wing at him in thanks.

----------------------

Hoss smiled as The last of the ponies was freed from the mess "What now? We fly to the finish, Miss LaMare! We'll get there to see them cross the line."

With that, Hoss increases his wingbeat from a hover to flight as he drops the vine and zooms at the bleachers, well off the track to avoid confusing the officials.

There was a flash before they got there as Jubilee and her friends appeared, courtesy of Misty it would seem.

He landed in time to greet his sister, and nods at her words "My advice exactly!"

Hoss ouched at his hind hoof touching the ground accidentaly and went back into a hover. He nudged ponies who had sat down, panting "Keep moving, walk those muscles for a bit or you will have cramps. Just a little longer while your body cools off."

He chuckled at seeing Rose Madder being carted off asleep by.. Umm... Inkwell, he seemed to remember. Her brother, he thought.

"That's it everypony, walk it off!"

Snails bounced happily around the group "Thanks Misty! That was a fun ride! I cant' wait 'till I can telyport myself, eh!"

Madam Bistro shook her head and smiled, moving her cart back to the spectators "No use for hot chocolate with hot, sweaty ponies..." She mused..

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The finish line was in sight, fuzzy though it may be. Swift Breeze smiled a bit, satisfied that he had done the temple proud this day, no matter what the outcome would be. "It has been wonderful running with you all, friends," he stated to the ponies around him, though he didn't even know their names. "Let us make haste, and see this event to its end!" he said as he noticed other ponies starting to put in their last stretch efforts to pull ahead. Swift was no exception. His head lowered, and he pushed his sticky, tired, aching body once again. The finish line was right there. Just a scant few hoofbeats away.

He heard the excitement of his fellow ponies wash through the crowd like a wave breaking on a beach. The griffon was somewhere nearby as well. It didn't seem quite as important as it had just a few moments ago. No matter what tricks or underhanded tactics may have been used before... all that really mattered was that one moment. One mad dash to see who would be the first across that checkered line. He supposed he could forgive her, with that in mind.

As the leaves fell all around Swift's eyes narrowed, focusing on what lay ahead. Just a few more hoofbeats. Just a little further. His muscles ached, and his breath felt far too short. Rest was just on the other side of that line. There were ponies to the left. Ponies to the right. One nose would pull ahead, then another would take its place.

Swift felt his wings strain against the sap holding them down in his excitement. The pull reminded him of his usual bindings. Sure, he wasn't certain where his blanket that usually held them down was at the moment, but he was glad that it had been of use. Blankets, like every other item, could be replaced. How odd, the celadon pegasus thought to himself, that he would find a peaceful moment even in the middle of a race. Whatever place he came in at, he would have a memory to take with him as a wonderful prize to cherish.

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Carrot Fields could feel the strain slowly build up in his leg muscles as he cleared the last of the Whitetail Woods, leaves swirling around him in a panorama of fiery colors. The race was finally starting to catch up with him but he was confident he had enough to not only finish, but finish strong. All those years in the fields plowing, hauling, and slopping through the deep, rich soil during the rains really made the difference in this test of pony endurance. For the first time in the race he was feeling proud; if only his sire could see him now!

Focusing on the path ahead, he could see the trees gradually giving away to open meadows and rolling hills. For the first time the top of the central meeting hall, the tallest building in Ponyville, can into view, rising over the next hill. This was it, the last mile; with the finish line just on the other side of the hills in front of him, and with only a couple of ponies and one griffin to pass up, it was finally time to switch from a steady galloping pace to a full on sprint.

As the gray earth pony lowered his head for that final dash he heard a recognizable voice behind him in the distance. Looking back he could see the familiar form on the minty unicorn filly, Lyra yelling back to him. Unfortunately between the wind and the galloping of hooves Carrot couldn't make out what she was saying. Was she mad about him stopping to help the orange neighbor filly? Where was her coltfriend, that odd brown and white earth pony? He didn't want to stop, especially since Carrot now had it in his mind that all three of the fillies he aided was now angry with him for the way things went and he certainly didn't want an earful so close to the finish line, not when finally things were looking up.

"You're all going down, lame ponies!"

That exclamation of victory by the griffin only managed to further strengthen the stallion's resolve. He remembered how she flew over the river to avoid the obstacle and giver herself an advantage, no pegasus did that! She didn't deserve to win, he had to get ahead. Luckily it appeared she was slightly slowed down by the remaining syrup still on her feet, but it was slowly coming off with each step she made. Considering her size, she probably be too fast to catch once she reached full speed, so it was now or never.

Carrot again lowered his head and began his final sprint, running as fast as he possibly could. No boasting, no trash talk. Gabbin' is frae chumps, action is whit matters, that is what his sire always told him; of course then he trash talk anyway. Not Carrot though, he wanted no other possible ill will. Galloping as hard as he hold, the earth pony started to pick up speed, he knew it would use up most of his endurance but now it no longer mattered, all that mattered was crossing that line!

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If Klondike had had his way, he would have been sleeping till the sun set and rose up again into the sky the next morning. He was tired, both physically and mentally. And yet, part of him refused to sleep. His muscles twitched and cause him to stir from his slumber. He could faintly hear a voice like it was off in the distance.

"Get...up! Walk for..half hour! Cool down or your muscles will get stiff. Get up! Walk!"

Klondike’s eyes lazily opened to a world covered in fog. He was really tired, had he not earned a small break?

"Help me, keep them walking.. Let their muscles work out loose.."

The same voice echoed through the fog, which he tiredly tried to blink away. He could see blurred shapes moving around. He blinked a few more times as color and form returned to the world in front of him.

“I guess most ponies already finished the race. I wonder who *yawn* won?…”

Klondike lumbered to his hooves again, feeling sharp pains through every muscle as they were forced to become active again. Whoever had been urging the racers to get up, she had the right idea. In the short time he had slept, his muscles had become incredibly sore.

“Maybe *grunt* next year I can find a book *wince* on how to run better…” Klondike halfheartedly commented as he lowered his head to place the hammer he still had in his mouth on the ground and proceeded to pick up his satchel and gingerly, but painfully, placed it on his back.

“Ow, well, guess I should go fix that sign… And pick up that empty bottle of apple juice I left under that tree in Sweet Apple Acres… And pay for those two juices I bought from Miss Applejack…”

Klondike looked around at the gathered ponies and then lowered his head to pick up his hammer off the ground before placing it back into his satchel. He then spotted Shanna urging ponies to get up and walk. So many ponies had been willing to help during the race, he could not help but feel he had a lot of catching up to do.

With a goofy tired grin, he made his way towards her and her brother, the metallic jingling of his satchel announcing his every labored hoof step. The small price to pay for inexpertly forcing them to move again after having suddenly stopped.

“Miss Skybright…” He called out as he approached Shanna, who was urging Breaker to move again. “You would imagine a *wince* stallion would love to wake up and move again to *wince* such a lovely voice as yours, Miss Skybright.” He gave her a tired wink and kept a simple smile about him.

“Do you and your twin Mr. Skybright want some help *wince* getting these ponies to move a bit more?”

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Shanna was nudging ponies who had sat down when Klondike came up to her. she smiled and blushed lightly at his praise of her voice. "You should hear it -huff- when I'm not exhausted." She stretched a hind leg with a loud set of pops "OOF! Y-yes, We would love your help." She spoke up a little louder, to reach some of the more steadily standing racers. "We welcome anypony's help -huff- in making ponies do a cool down walk."

Shanna smiled as she saw the earth pony with the carrot cutie mark made of stars *...Wonder what the significance of the stars is? Does he like stars?...* and the.. celadon?.. pegasus who helped her brother. She smiles and waves a wingtip at each.

Shanna had yet to remember to even ask who won the race...

--------------------------

Meanwhile, Hoss was nudging ponies to walk it out, when he spotted the Celadon colored pegaus and fluttered on over."OH! Swift Breeze! I'm So sorry! I forgot! Your blanket is over there at the starting line bleachers! It will need a wash Im afraid, I had to drop it on a giant spider, jet pack and all. and it still didnt stop it." Hoss smacked his head with a hoof "..Oh yeah, I'll have to go back and spray that spider with poison joke cure too.."

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((OOC: I feel that

is also a good song for pushing to the end, Halo.))

The grand finale, the final stretch! The last leg of the Running of the Leaves was upon them all! As Douglas, Mobius, and Survey broke out of the White Tail Woods and onto the final straight-a-way they realized they had waited too long and were being enveloped by the rest of the pack. Douglas could see both of his new friends falling behind him. His body ached from top to the bottom, head to hoof! He could barely believe it was finally coming to an end! This one, eventful day, full of crazy twists and odd moments had really worn him out. From bad starts and early breaks, to exhausting swims and foul play. This has been a rather interesting day, it was simply amazing that he had so much fun today.

It wasn't soon that Douglas recognized the mare in front of him, it was Miss Mint! He was glad to see she was had gotten over the bridge in good time and even found her way ahead of him. He wanted to speak with her again, but it seemed like she was focused on the race so Douglas assumed it would probably be best if he waited. It was soon after that Douglas heard somepony call from behind him. He glanced back at the pony who called him. "Yeah! One hay of a day!" Douglas replied, his breath labored as he checked ahead of himself before hearing the Scruffy pony continue. "Well, I at least hope there's none left!" With that simple reply, Douglas decided it was time to push harder for the line. The straight-a-way was a long dash ahead and he could slowly feel himself slipping into a racing mindset, the colors of the Ponies around him soon blurring as solely the road remained unaffected by his vision!

"Push for it, Trotter!" he thought, his muscles crying for a break as he rushed through the pain, wanting to edge out one or two more places before the line! "I've come this far! The line is right there! I'm crossing it and I'm going to pass everypony I can!" Douglas could feel himself gaining on Ginger, his mind pulling his thoughts away for the moment before shaking them off and making for the finish! It was going to be a close run, he could feel himself moving alongside other ponies as they either charged past him or dropped behind him. Douglas couldn't tell if he had anymore in the tank to push forward in the pack, but he knew he at least had enough to hold his place! The line was in sight, fast closing in. It was now or never to make that final move!

Tucking his head down slightly, Douglas groaned through gritting teeth as he pushed forward for the finish! It was going to be his last chance to edge out one last spot! The banner above the line and the checkered line across the ground the only things his eyes still recognized! It was going to be closer than ever for the finish! He could feel ponies along side him on both sides, his competitive spirit wanted to beat them all to the line! "Douglas Trotta' Across the line!" he barked as he came upon the finish. Desperate for that last edge Douglas did the unexpected and dug his hind legs into the ground, diving forward, forelegs outstretch as he soared across the line! His body crashed and tumbled over the line, the sacrifice more than worth it if he gained an extra position from it!

His body coming to rest across the line, Douglas slowly pushed himself to his hooves...his body so weary and tired from the run and his undercarriage sore from sliding and tumbling over the line. He was fast regretting his decision to jump for the line, but it was all in fun. Cringing as he slowly began walking around the finish, he plopped down on his haunches as the other ponies came across the line. Douglas looked for the ponies he recognized and cheered for them to charge on! He slowly stamped his hooves as soon enough all the ponies has crossed the line. Douglas slowly stood up after the race was finally over, he knew for a fact that tonight he was going to sleep like a newborn.

Standing up wobbly he began moving through the field looking for familiar faces. There were still a few ponies coming across the line, but most had already finished and were trying to regain their strength. He saw quite a few ponies helping others, either with getting a drink or keeping them active to cool down. It was after pushing past a few ponies nudging those that were resting that he came upon Survey. "Hay! Wasn't that fun? And look at all the leaves we knocked down!" Douglas exclaimed as he moved alongside Survey waiting for his reply. "I have to say, I had a lot of fun. Definitely hoping to come back next year, how about you?" he asked, seeing his friend was still a little awkward with his speech. "I just hope next time there isn't so many obstacles, some of those were just unreal." After his little chat Douglas said his goodbye and began looking through the crowd for another familiar face.

After a little more wadding along the surge of ponies Douglas came upon Mobius. The Pegasus had finished just a ways behind Douglas and he hoped Mobius wouldn't be too worn out. "Mobius, hay! That was quite the rush at the end, huh? I didn't see the pack come up on us until we were swarmed by them!" Douglas said, his breathing still labored from the sprint to the finish. "I'm shocked we did as well as we did! So you coming back next year?" Douglas couldn't help but feel himself let out a quick stretch as he listened to Mobius' answer. "I believe I'll be running again, as long as work doesn't interfere than I'll be here!" Just then he caught something in the side of his eye, a streak of green had passed gently by. "Hay, It was great fun running with you and Survey, hopefully we'll meet again sometime." Douglas said, lifting a hoof to Mobius. "Let's continue this later, alright? I'll see ya around!" With his goodbye said, Douglas waited on Mobius' reply before trotting off after whatever it was that caught his eye.

"Hm...Hey, it is Miss Mint!" Douglas said as he saw her through the crowd. He had thought he had seen her while talking with Mobius and wanted to apologize for getting split up. "Hello! Miss Mint! Ginger! It's good to see you finished alright!" Douglas stated as he pushed his way through the other ponies. "That was some finish, wasn't it? Didn't think everypony would bunch up again for the final dash! Did you see who won?" Douglas soon trotted alongside the mare as she moved around the area, he could feel his muscles begging for a rest. Although he made sure to keep moving for awhile first. "I'm sorry our conservation earlier got disrupted. Now that the race is over maybe we could have a little more time to talk."

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