At 8 a.m., before the day turns shirt-clinging muggy, bystanders gather in hopes of seeing some of the world’s really fast runners, soon to appear on the outdoor course for training sprints. A boy a bit bigger than his backpack fidgets against the railing, but the rest of the small crowd stands quietly, cameras ready. From behind a grassy rise on the far side of the course comes the slamming of metal doors, and suddenly the runners lope into sight, their long yellow tails kinked behind them.
Travel costs being what they are these days, this report on what makes an athlete extraordinary is not brought to you from Beijing. Instead, a $1.35 fare (off-peak) on the Washington, D.C., subway leads from the Science News offices to the grounds of Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
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