So Anya, the 9-year-old granddaughter, says, "Grandpa, you wanna race?"

And I had an immediate flashback, a memory from more than 20 years ago, when my son, Matt, and his friend, Derek, both members of the high school track team, challenged me to a race.

They were 15, or thereabouts, which would have made me in my early-40s. Let's just put it this way -- I was well past my prime.

But I was still playing Central League baseball, so I wasn't completely over the hill yet. On the crest of the hill for sure, but not on the downhill side.

Anyway, my competitive instincts kicked in, and I took them up on their challenge. Doggoned whippersnappers. To be honest, I expected to lose the race, but I wasn't about to give in to them without making them work for it.

So the three of us -- the two boys talking trash to the old man the entire time -- lined up along the first base line at the baseball field. The finish line was 90 feet away at second base. That was their choice, but it probably worked to my advantage.

Anyway, one of the boys said "Go," and off we went.

I'll make a long story a little shorter -- I won the race. By several strides, in fact.

I don't brag about it much, but I do remind my son of it every now and again when he gets a little uppity.

All I can say is thank goodness they didn't wait another 10 years and challenge me to another race. By then I would have been easy pickings.

Anyway, I have a little bit of experience being challenged to races by young  'uns who don't know any better.

Anya's looking up at me now, smiling with that big Cheshire cat grin I love so much. "Well, Grandpa," she said, "are you going to race me or not?"

Are you sure you want to do this? I asked.


You're not going to get mad if you lose? I asked.


Well, then I guess I'll race you.

It was a stupid thing to say. Really. I'm 64, going on 65 in a huge rush, and I hadn't run 20 feet, make that 10 feet, in probably five or six years, at least.

And for 10 years before that, when I ran it was barely a jog.

And, to be honest, even in my prime I didn't remind anyone of Jesse Owens.

I was always quicker than I was fast.

Anyway, Anya wanted to race. Why? I don't know. She's not particularly athletic. She'd normally prefer to read a book than run a race. Or so I thought.

I think I must have looked particularly old and broken down that day, and she viewed me as an easy mark.

Anyway, we lined up along the sidewalk and my daughter, Stacy, walked about 100 feet down the street to a fire hydrant that was the finish line.

Old man versus the third-grader.

Ready. Get set. Go.

And off we went. Neck and neck for about 40 feet, then I pulled ahead. Then my legs started to wobble. I am terribly out of shape. After years of playing various sports, baseball in particular, I suddenly felt like I'd never done anything athletic.

In fact, I was beginning to feel like I might fall on my face any second. My body parts were moving on their own, and I had little control over them. Just put one foot in front of the other, I kept telling myself.

In a flash, I was more concerned about doing a face-plant on the macadam then I was about winning the race.

And Anya started gaining on me.

Just stay on your feet. Don't fall down. Don't embarrass yourself. And for God's sake, don't have a heart attack.

Anya edged closer and closer.

My legs struggled to keep me upright. I was like a runaway train, out of control, muscle memory failing me, huffing and puffing and straining for the finish line.

OK, I won.

By about a stride-and-a-half. Nothing to get excited about.

To her credit, Anya took the loss like a champ. In fact, she had hardly crossed the finish line before she asked if I wanted to go for a long walk.

I was thinking "nap."

She was thinking "a long walk" around the neighborhood. Up hills and down. Steep hills.

So I went for a walk. It's what grandfathers do, I guess.

Anyway, off we went, the two young redheads, Anya and Lorelei, and me.

It's what memories are made of, for them, of course, and for me.

It'll be forever remembered, written in family history, as the day Grandpa beat Anya in a race and lived to tell the story.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: