`Mush!'

By

WHAT an extraordinary test of mankind's ability to endure and to conquer the elements -- an 1,100 sled dog race across Alaskan trail. Now it is a test womankind has passed in the most resounding way: This year Libby Riddles won, the first female winner in the race's 13 years. She finished first by beating the men at their own game: She pulled ahead by driving her dogs through a blizzard that no other contestant would challenge.

At some point the recognition of women's achievements will be commonplace. Special note will not be taken. Until then, the world rightly will continue to record the victories of women as they conquer presumed limitations.

Women's successes have come more quickly in recent years. Some are highly visible, like Geraldine Ferraro last year becoming the first woman vice-presidential nominee of a major party. Or the Los Angeles Olympic inclusion, for the first time, of women's marathon and cycling events. Others are less celebrated: the extraordinary growth within the past decade in the number of women entering formerly male-only professions. Heralded or no, each is a step forward on the road to full equality.

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So, too, is Ms. Riddles's victory.

For all her superhuman effort on the trail, there was something appealingly human about Ms. Riddles in the winner's circle. She introduced her lead dog, ``my main man.'' Someone expectantly held a microphone to his nose, but -- looking slightly bored with the interview -- he had no comment.

What's next after snowy Alaska? A vacation in Hawaii: but first, ``I've got to hire a dog sitter.'' ----30{et

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