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The Sad Cinderella Story of the Nike Women's Marathon

The Sad Cinderella Story of the Nike Women's Marathon

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.


Join The Conversation
runningesq runningesq 8 years
iiee --- exactly! what would have happened had she started at the beginning with the elites? they may have run a better race - a more stragetic race - had they known she was on their tail.
iieee_grrl iieee_grrl 8 years
It's a USATF rule - if she's that good of a runner, she should know that. It's a national rule that "gun" time is the decider of winners, not "chip" time. I'm a slower runner and I know that. Running isn't a time to be humble as she said she was doing in an interview. Part of the race is the psychology of seeing your competition. Who knows, the elite runners who registered correctly might have run faster if they had known someone was on par to beat their time.. but they run the race according to the conditions and this girl, as sad as it seems, incorrectly registered.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I'm so glad to hear that they're being fair!
Astres Astres 8 years
Found this on a running forum: Nike is announcing today that it recognizes Arien O'Connell as a winner in last weekend’s Nike Women’s Marathon with the fastest chip time, completing the full race in 2:55:11. She shattered her previous time and achieved an amazing accomplishment. Arien will receive the same recognition and prize, including a Tiffany bowl, the full marathon elite group winner received. Arien was unfortunately not immediately recognized as a race winner because she did not start the race with the elite running group, which is required by USATF standards. Because of their earlier start time, the runners in the elite group had no knowledge of the outstanding race Arien was running and could not adjust their strategies accordingly. Learning from the unique experience in this year’s race, Nike has decided today to eliminate the elite running group from future Nike Women's Marathons. Next year, all runners will run in the same group and all will be eligible to win. Nike has a proven track record of supporting athletes and we’re proud to be able to honor Arien and other athletes who surpass their goals and achieve great accomplishments. Sincerely, Nike+ / Nike Running
Angela123 Angela123 8 years
Completely ridiculous, IMO, that there is even an 'elite' category...the word alone bothers me, and I agree with RunningInBoston, it seems to completely go against the message of the event and female empowerment, which Nike claims to be all about.
hippiecowgirl hippiecowgirl 8 years
That's tragic.
psterling psterling 8 years
Niki should do something nice for her.
javsmav javsmav 8 years
Yeah, technically there are two different races--an elite race and the "regular" runners race. She wasn't registered in the elite race so there's no way she could win it. However, I still think it's ridiculously unfair--I would be so pissed if this happened to me. I would also be humiliated to be one of the "elite" runners who got their asses kicked by some random girl.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
runningesq runningesq 8 years
In every race I've ever run --- the winner is the person who crosses the finish line first. It's ALWAYS by gun time. Chip time is for those of us that start in the MOP and want an accurate race time.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
Nike obviously needs to rethink how they run this race. It's obviously flawed. It's a shame.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
tlsgirl: i totally agree. the "winner" should do/say something. I, too, would like to know what Nike considers an elite runner? If it is below 3 hours like someone suggested, then it seems that no elite runner made that anyway. And why would Nike (and other marathons) have the limitation that only "elite" runners can make a top place/receive prizes. I don't understand.
imcs imcs 8 years
the winner will forever have to live knowing she didn't win. if she were an honest person she'd share her prize with Arien. But of course that's not what it was about for Arien.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 8 years
I hate all these rankings. I understand for a speed race such as 5k, you should start in the front but jeez...
katyharper katyharper 8 years
If this really gets out, this will be a PR nightmare for Nike.
MaggietheCat MaggietheCat 8 years
Not fair!!!
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I agree with bigestivediscuits - if I were the "elite" finisher I would totally give up my prize, seeing as how someone else had earned it by 11 minutes! That's so ridiculous.
ladychaos ladychaos 8 years
Only in America: the best person can win and somehow STILL lose to someone inferior. Often seen in Marathons and Politics.
RunninginBoston RunninginBoston 8 years
I went to the Nike website for the event (It's not the best organized site). In the FAQ, it says to submit a running resume to be considered for elite status, but it doesn't have any information on what would be considered "elite." Here in Boston, elite is considered way under 3 hours. I can see why O'Connell wouldn't think of herself as elite. Nike's website also doesn't say anything about "two separate races." It only lists one set of prizes that appears to be open to everyone. There's nothing to say that you have to apply to be an elite runner to be considered for the top prizes (and it was only trophies, no prize money is listed). If this was the only information O'Connell had when signing up, I'm sure she thought she was following the rules. I bet the majority of the other 20,000 people who signed up for the event were unaware that there were two different races with prizes only for the elites. And why does an event that promotes itself as empowering women and the beginner marathoner even having an elite start? It seems to go against the message of the event.
nikolem2 nikolem2 8 years
This is so sad! I agree that they should have recognized her, even if it's not part of the "rules". This is bad publicity for Nike.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 8 years
That is infuriating. If I were the first place winner, I would have given her my prize - honestly and seriously. I just would not feel good in keeping it, knowing I hadn't truly "won."
lydialee_home lydialee_home 8 years
I think Nike Official should figure out something to honor Arien O'Connell. I mean Nike is a big company - an extra prize money, a medal or even a certificate will mean a lot to her.
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