Chapter 10

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"This year, our finale will go a little differently. . . There are three mats waiting for you deep into the woods. The mats you are standing on are no longer valid."
With that, he set down the microphone. I sat there puzzled for a moment and then I saw Melissa Green dash into the forest.
"Paige move! We gotta go!" I yell as I throw a couple of things in my satchel.
I sprint into the woods second with Paige and the others on my tail. We sprint for a while, expecting to see the new mats soon. After a while I grow tired, but I keep running. I haven't seen anyone in a while. Melissa is in front of me and the other four are behind me.
Then I hear an announcement from Jeff Rogers:
"Due to an injury, number 38, Justin Tillerman has been pulled from the game."
That is the only announcement. There is no specifying about where we are. So I just keep running.
Time passes and more time passes. I slow to a quick jog but I take no breaks. I've dropped my supplies a long time ago, as they weighed me down while I was running. I haven't seen Melissa or Paige or the others in a while, so I assume I am still in second place, but I can't be too sure and I keep a quick pace.
Then I see the long brown hair flopping in the wind some distance ahead of me. That must be Melissa, I think to myself. I try to run faster but I can't quite catch her.
All of a sudden we run into an area where the forest opens up into a field. A huge golden pyramid sits in the middle with a temple on top, live audiences to the left and right cheering us on, and three colorful authentic woven mats in front. The mats! Melissa and I dash to the first two empty mats and catch out breath.
"Number 51, Melissa Green advances to the finals with number 103, Connor Reid! There is one spot left ladies and gents!" Jeff is sitting in the temple on top of the huge pyramid.
I can't help but stare into the forest. There's only one spot left. Who's going to get it?
I sorta hope it's Paige.
As I peer into the trees we hear some noises coming from the woods. The crowd gets eerily silent. Jeff exhales into the microphone a little, and a slight breeze comes over the open field and sends a chill down my back.
Then someone breaks through the foliage. A boy with bright red hair. Then Paige is right on his tail. It's a race to the finish.
My heart beats so fast I can hear it. Paige starts to catch up but it still behind. The red headed boy reaches the mat first by a half of a second. Just as this happens another person rushes through the foliage only to find his spot has been taken.
"Number 6, Blaze Farrell earns the last spot! What a let down for Paige, Franklin, and Justin."
It takes a minute for me to realize what happened. Paige didn't make it. It's a bittersweet feeling to get into the finals without Paige.
"Ladies and gentlemen! The moment you've all been waiting for has finally arrived!" Jeff blabbers on as some guys shove cameras in my face, "we have dwindled the competitors down to three. There's Melissa Green. . ." The crowd cheers loudly, "Connor Reid. . ." The crowd gets louder. Is that the sound of little Fiona screaming? I scan the crowds and see my entire family jumping up and down and waving their arms at me. I grin and wave back. When Jeff Rogers announces "Blaze Farrell" the crowd cheers, but my family is silent.
"Blaze, Melissa, Connor, this last obstacle is simple, yet incredibly difficult. The first one of you to climb up this pyramid and hit the gong will win the five-thousand Kappoz reward! Ready. . . Set. . . Go!"
It's a mad dash to the pyramid. Then it slows down when we actually get to it. The blocks go up to my shoulders so I actually have to jump and climb up these hundreds of blocks. Yikes!
The three of us continue up the enormous golden structure, still pretty close together. Then we hit the first real obstacle. Two rows of blocks were taken out so that the pyramid had a flat space and then an unclimbable tall wall. The wall has but one wooden ladder on it. I am the first to jump up and start climbing it, leaving the others behind, but Melissa, not to be outdone, goes behind me and pulls my legs out so that I am hanging by my arms. The two yank me down and I fall to the floor, bashing my nose along the way. Melissa is up first and she tries to push the ladder over but Blaze holds it steady and goes up after her. Then he knocks it over.
After rushing to fix the ladder and racing back up it I see Melissa is already three blocks ahead and Blaze is two. Blood and sweat-literally blood and sweat because my nose is bleeding-pour down my face as I struggle to catch up to those two. They stop at another obstacle until I reach them. Then I see what they are gawking at. One thin rope stretches across a twenty foot gap. Underneath the rope is a fifty foot drop with a net at the bottom and steps to get back up. Blaze goes on the rope first. Immediately Melissa begins viciously yanking and shaking the rope until Blaze's grip gives out and he plummets to the net below. I know he won't be able to recover from that.
Melissa hops on after he falls and I start climbing like a sloth right behind her. I use both my arms and my legs so if she tries any funny stuff I can stay on the rope but she just takes off when she gets off the rope. I continue to climb after her. I can really feel my arms and legs burning now. This is super tough.
By the next obstacle we are about even. We are on one of the upper tiers of the pyramid and there is a wide moat surrounding the uppermost part with stairs on the other side. Lily pad shaped floaties are spread all across the moat.  In an instant I realize this must be the last obstacle. We are almost there. This is where it matters most. The final stretch. Okay, here we go.
I dash across the floaties and barely make it across without falling into the moat. Melissa is hot on my tail but stepped just to the left on the last floatie. I sprint with all my might up the stairs because I know if I stop for an instant she'll pass me. I use that last bit of energy saved up to go as fast as i possibly can. The crowd is just screaming their heads off.
Then I finally go over the final step and run into the temple with Jeff Rogers, a bunch of cameras, and a huge golden gong. I punch it with all my might and collapse on the floor right there.
The crowd goes mad. An instant later Melissa comes into the temple completely out of breath and lays down next to me.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the twelfth annual season of The Run is Connor Reid!"

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