October 22, 2008

When Winners Are Losers

Declared SF Marathon winner on right, finisher with fastest time on the left. No need to wonder why the woman on the right looks a bit ticked off.

Vanilla, over at Half Fast, was kind enough to post some info on the San Francisco Marathon Winner, who actually didnt win. Huh?

Turns out, the fastest time for the Nike San Francisco Marathon was 2:55:11 ... posted by Arien O’Connell. The problem? She wasnt registered as an "elite" runner and started with the rest of the pack 20 minutes behind those that were registered as "elite". When the first "elite" runner broke through the tape, she was declared the winner. Nora Colligan from Austin, Texas took the marathon title with a time of 3:06:30.

Interesting enough, a similar situation occured in Chicago with the mens group! According to The San Francisco Chronicle, a Kenyan named Wesley Korir finished fourth (even though he wasn't in the elite group) and started five minutes after the top runners. The same ruling was made in this situation as was in San Francisco: It didn't count. Just as O'Connell wasn't declared the winner in SF, Korir didn't collect fourth-place prize money in Chicago.

A Change of Heart
Although they initially refused to acknowlege it, it now appears Nike is going to announce the real winner - and I have to think the blogosphere had an impact here. If it werent for the viral effect the web has, this type of news would not have spread - in fact, the only person who would have known Arien was the true winner would likely have been Arien herself. Here is a letter from Nike posted on Run to Win:

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.

Nike+ / Nike Running
Note the most interesting part: they are eliminating the elite group from future marathons! I wonder if this will start a trend? All marathons I have seen have an elite group - and as I mentioned earlier, this certainly isnt a freak occurance! "Elite" runners do not always post the best times :)

1 comment:

robison52 said...

As most of us can attest, starting with the main pack and having to maneuver around slower runners is time consuming, which makes her faster achievement than the elites even more remarkable!