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The agony of victory

Over the course of my storied athletic career, I've run in literally several races. True, a handful of said races were actually fun runs, but fun runs are just what losers call races they know they stand as much chance of winning as the English language stands of surviving a Sarah Palin speech with its dignity intact.

I'm kidding, of course. While Sarah Palin does lack even a rudimentary grasp of English, fun runs are positive activities organized by and for upstanding, fitness-conscious citizens. Still, even the staunchest fun run supporter has to admit that fun runs attract people who fear competition - not losers, exactly, but the kind of athlete one might describe as "victory-challenged."

As a result, you don't get much for finishing first in a fun run: no comically oversized check, no lucrative corporate endorsements - not even something useless masquerading as something valuable, like a blue ribbon, or a copy of Sarah Palin's bestselling doorstop "Going Rogue."

See, fun-run enthusiasts subscribe to the un-American philosophy that everyone is "a winner." Thus, they insist that finishing first is no better than finishing last, so long as you "gave it your all" and "enjoyed yourself."

Poppycock, I say - or would have said before this past August's Olga Memorial Race in Saranac Lake. The Olga Race is actually a race - not a fun run - so I signed up with visions of comically oversized checks and lucrative corporate endorsements dancing in my head.

I didn't expect to win the entire race, of course (while I might suffer from delusions of grandeur, I ain't no moron), but I did hope to win my age division. That hope almost died when, during the second half of the 10-kilometer course, a dude who looked suspiciously like a dude in his 20s passed me. That was bad enough, but what made it infinitely worse was that he was pushing a stroller - with a child in it - and he beat me.

Luckily, the guy turned out to be in his 30s, and I won my division. Still, I didn't feel like a winner - because while I might've given it my all, the humiliation of losing to an elderly man pushing a stroller obliterated any chance I had of enjoying myself.

Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. E-mail him at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or read his blog at theshallowobserver.wordpress.com.

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