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My hat’s off to Jen Chung for live-blogging this year’s July 4th Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island as seen on Gothamist.com. An amazing feat all on its own.

This year Joey Chestnut (pictured above) downed an unbelievable 66 hot dogs, breaking last year’s already ridiculous record of 53 1/2 hot dogs set by champion Takeru Kobayashi of Japan. For many years, Kobayashi dominated the contest, but that didn’t stop the determined Chestnut.

It takes me a couple of days to digest something like this, but I have to say that I find the annual contest fascinating – a story about the human spirit. Now let me be clear…I can’t imagine anything more disgusting than a hot dog eating contest. Grown men and women stuffing themselves full of hot dogs – the real pros using the newer method of separating the hot dog from the bun, although both must be devoured. What? No Nathan’s fries?

Yet there was scrappy Jen Chung watching the thing mouthful after disgusting mouthful, live-blogging it for all of us to see – something I never could have pulled off. Jen, I appreciate your stamina, unique point of view on this event, and, most of all, your intestinal fortitude.

And then there were the stars of the event, the contestants, stuffing themselves silly – lord knows what it was like afterwards – just to win this coveted title. Just to be “best”. An amazing human drive. Pushing ourselves forward to see what we have inside. (Uh…in this case, it’s hot dogs.)

Although this seems wacky to me and I’m sure to most of you, something inside inspires us to take on new quests – even bizarre ones like this one – just to achieve our own version of greatness. To be remembered, even in a small way. A living monument, albeit one made up of ground meat parts in this case.

While I can’t imagine ever wanting to take on this particular challenge, I am nonetheless left marveling at the awesomeness of the human spirit. Despite many good reasons for reviling this event, I applaud that part in each of us that strives for something more.

Congratulations Joey! And kudos to all the rest of the contestants. Good luck to all of you next year. Just don’t stop by to visit me after the contest, ok?