“Get ready...” the announcer, a red Techo, called out.
The yellow Poogle tilted his ears back to reduce wind resistance and stared down the racetrack. It went straight for a while, and then turned to go around in a circle, eventually ending at where it started. Between him and the end stood 350 meters of track, planted on a large cloud near Faerie City. Along the way, there were a few hurdles that he would have to jump.
Around him, all kind of Neopians, mostly old ones, watched the races. They would drink their coffee and bet their neopoints on a Poogle. They all knew he was the best to bet on.
His real name, Moogi, was not known to the spectators at the track. To them, he was just Poogle One, the lightning quick Poogle that was the favorite to win and had 3:1 odds posted. He had talked to the committee if they could let the spectators know the Poogle racers by their name, rather than a number. But they refused his request, although he had tried multiple times.
He hated to be just a number. A number doesn't mean anything. For him, his name was much more important, and he felt that the rest of the Poogles around him thought the same.
“Get set..." the announcer continued, holding a Rainbow Gun high up in the air.
He pushed the thoughts out of his head, or at least to the very back, and focused on the race before him, bowing his head and preparing to run.
Beside him, he could see Vic, also known as Poogle Two, trying to keep his mind on the race. Unfortunately, a cute female Poogle in the stands caught Vic's eye. Moogi giggled, making Poogle Three, also known as Claire, look towards him. She was standing between Vic and Poogle Four. Once their eyes met, they both quickly turned away. Claire looked a bit nervous, and he knew that she was dreading the jumps she would have to make.
Poogle Four, whose name was Bolt, looked like the veteran he was, and stared calmly at the track before him. He knew the track so well, he could probably tell you about any and all cracks that have formed on the clay below them. He was probably the best threat for Moogi, but he believed in himself. Poogle Five, whose name was Jojo, was muttering to herself, and Moogi guessed that she was probably regretting that last piece of cake she ate during the break. Moogi knew that she loved cakes, and it gave her 9:1 odds thanks to her weight.
“Go,” the announcer yelled, firing the Rainbow Gun into the air. All the Neopets on the stands cheered as the five Poogles took off.
Moogi was concentrating on keeping his legs moving and getting to the first jump, and staying in his lane during the first turn. The green bar approached, and he cleared the jump easily. There was a cheer from the crowd, most probably because of Moogi. Suddenly, there was a crash behind them, and Moogi glanced back to see that Claire had caught her hind leg on the hurdle and gone down with it. She shook it off and tried her best to catch up.
Moogi glanced next to him, and could tell that Vic‘s mind was still on the female Poogle in the stands, and was falling behind the pack. Some of the spectators were yelling at him to get his mind back in the race and win it. Nearby, Bolt was huffing and puffing, trying to keep up, but beginning to tire because of his age.
As Moogi jumped the second hurdle at the halfway mark, he reflected on how he had come to be a participant there. Since he was young, he had enjoyed watching the other Poogles race, especially Bolt. When he had free time, he spent it running. Racing the wind, a Pteri flying above him, the family Doglefox, anything and everything that was moving. Trying to be like his heroes.
As he was still running in the track, a lot of thoughts passed through his mind. He was now approaching another hurdle, each time getting closer and closer to finish line. But in his mind, thoughts rushed in and out.
He first thought was when Neopets admired him, and said he should join the school track team. Moogi did, and he was quickly noticed and gained a lot of popularity as being one of the fastest freshmen there, and the teacher in charge admired him. Some of his older teammates didn’t want their times beaten, but he stayed true to his dream.
The committee at the race track noticed his achievements, and asked him to try out. He went to the track and did the best he could. After being drafted as a backup, to run if one of the starters was too injured or tired, he rose through the ranks, eventually becoming one of the five starters and making a lot of Neopians rich. He still had speed, and could easily jump the hurdles...
When he thought of the hurdles, his mind snapped into reality just in time to see the last hurdle right in front of him! With no time to dodge or jump, he ran into it head on, knocking both him and the hurdle over. Sweat was running down his ears, making the case even more embarrassing. Some of the spectators groaned as they saw the money they bet on him slip away. Some others just yelled at him, while a minority cheered for Vic. He saw Vic passing him quickly, while the other three followed, not even giving him a glance. Moogi picked himself up and ran the rest of the way, but he ended in last place.
He walked over to the podium to see that the winner of this race had turned out to be Vic, followed by Bolt and Claire. Moogi stood beside with Jojo and watched them hold up their trophies, even though they were mostly for show. The committee couldn’t afford to give them a trophy for each race to take home, since they ran so many in a day. So they never kept the trophies.
As he walked back into the break room, Moogi was angry at himself. He had been ahead of everyone, easily winning the race. If only he had kept his head in the race and hadn't started thinking about his past, he would have been at the top of that podium. Being distracted was Poogle Two’s job, not his. His thoughts were broken when Jojo put a paw around his shoulders.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not long until the next race,” she said.
Moogi gave a smile, as he realized Jojo was right. Each race took approximately five minutes, and then they got a ten minute break in between, longer if they felt that they needed a backup to step in. The Poogle-in-training got practice, the starters got the rest they needed, and the underdogs had a better chance at winning.
But after the break, there would be another race that Moogi would run in, as he didn't do so well in the previous one. And in that race, there would be another shot to get closer to glory. Moogi knew he would get there.
350 meters at a time.