Verdict Is In: Arien Is 'A' Winner

Nike responded Wednesday to the outcry from their ruling on Sunday at the Nike Women's Marathon. (It is detailed below in my words and still a top story on SFGate.) I'm sure the running community and others alike threw Nike PR into a tail spin and left them scrambling around to turn this into a positive for one of the largest Woman-focused races in the world. It happened in our own backyard and I don't doubt that SFGate's attention to the matter and the thousands of emails Nike received didn't have an influence. The power of the people (and running community) at it's best, uniting.

Nike decided to name Arien O'Connell as 'a' winner, not 'the' winner (subtle difference — not). She will be given the same award as the first place finisher that ran 11 minutes slower than Arien. Nike is also removing the elite category from future races to hopefully avoid this from happening again. Could they have completely overturned the first place ruling, yes, but that would have created another PR nightmare from the other side of the argument. It seems like Nike wanted to admit there was an injustice and is trying to handle it fairly across the board. Whether or not they were successful is still up for discussion.

There were some great comments yesterday and opinions seemed to be in favor of granting Arien first place which was also the consensus from the majority of the postings I was reading online. As for me, I am really still on the fence about this, but in favor of her winning — it could have been a fabulous PR story that encouraged thousands of new runners to get out on the pavement. Let's say I'm 52% give her first and 48% unofficial winner. I feel like she ran the best that day and should be awarded first along with it's accolades, but rules are rules regardless of how lame they are (and yes, lame is a technical word).

Sadly there is always someone that gets the shaft for things to be reexamined for the better. Maybe by Arien not being named First, hundreds of women runners will run the race of their lives and be named 'the' winner over the next hundred years. I guess we have to look at the big picture, cheer on Arien and all the other Arien's out there and be happy that perhaps the 5 year old that was out there this year will run a 2:30 twenty years from now and have the first place medal put her around her neck whether or not she considers herself elite.

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I guess I'm confused about this because I'm not a competitive runner. So...the elite group got a 20 minute head start. She wasn't in that group, her time was still faster than the people who got the head start, and she didn't get first place (initially anyway). Yeah, I'd be pissed too.


Pavement Runner said...

No worries about confusion - it is a complicated situation and I'm not that great of a writer. :)

The elite group started 20 mins before everyone else, but each runner's time starts when they cross the starting line. So a runner could start an hour after the elite group and still end up with a faster or similar finish time.

Hope that helps.

Brianna said...

Looks like the running world is learing from its mistakes and making positive steps in the right direction. Improvements always take time . . . and a bit of salt in wounds, too, it seems. My guess is that Arien will forever be remembered as a pioneer. Not too shabby for a woman who just headed out to enjoy a run and maybe get a PR. :)

Anonymous said...

I think this case poses a new issue regarding both chip timing and elite field head starts. I say there will by that rare amature (someone not in the elite field by still just as hardcore) that will explode. It comes down to the question is the winner the first person across the finish, the elite that will due to the head start, or the fastest time, the amature who exploded? I have never been a huge fan of the elite head start so I agree that Arien should have the first place finish because she did run the fastest time. This will be an interesting next few years as more and more cases like this come up, which they will, and how it is going to be handled. Maybe there are two bests...
Time and more races will tell