I have always heard that the Nike Women's Marathon is a super empowering experience. Running with a pack of women and receiving a charm necklace designed by Tiffany (pictured below, some finisher is selling it on Craig's List for $175) at the finish line sound great. I even plan on running the half marathon next year.
On hearing Arien O'Connell's tale, I feel almost as disappointed as she must have. This fifth-grade teacher from NYC ran the course the fastest, but is not officially recognized as the winner — wtf? — due to this unfortunate rule: you have to register as an "elite" runner to qualify for winning the race. The race officials were "flabbergasted" that a non-elite runner could win. O'Connell is not alone in this non-elite unrecognized status. Last weekend at the Chicago Marathon, the fourth fastest runner was not officially recognized as the fourth place winner. He didn't start the race with the elite group so he didn't collect the fourth place prize money. It wasn't until the finishing times were announced at the Nike Marathon closing awards ceremony that O'Connell realized she had the fastest time.
To see O'Connell's finishing time and by how many minutes, not seconds, she beat the official winner,
Arien O'Connell had the best run of her life, shaved 12 minutes off her personal record, and finished the hilly course in 2:55:11. Her official finish time, recorded on the race's computer, was 11 minutes faster than the first place winner. Wow! That is no small margin. I need to ask, why have chip times if no one is going to check them before the winners are announced? One would hope that Nike would figure out a way to celebrate this modest runner, who classifies herself as a solid runner rather than an elite runner, even if the closing ceremonies were completed. Instead, the Nike spokesperson said, "At this point, we've declared our winner." What about thinking on your feet, or dare I even say, thinking on the run? Figure something out, bend the rules, give this gal, who is fleet of feet, some form of acknowledgment.
The press reports that O'Connell is not bitter about the situation; she's just proud of her new personal record and it sounds like she knows she won.
How would you feel? Tell me in the comments section below.
Please read the update with press release from Nike.