Nike crowns two winners in marathon

Updated: October 23, 2008, 6:54 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two winners in the same race? And a 26.2-mile marathon at that?

No way. Well, Nike says, yes.

Three days after Nora Colligan won the Nike Women's Marathon, she learned that she actually had to share the title of top finisher in the San Francisco race.

New Yorker Arien O'Connell was 11 minutes faster Sunday, but Colligan crossed the finish line first because she was registered as an elite runner and among the first field to leave the starting line, 20 minutes before O'Connell and the others. O'Connell, a school teacher in Brooklyn, crossed in a personal-best of 2 hours, 55 minutes, 11 seconds -- while Colligan, of Austin, Texas, finished in 3:06:30.

Nike "recognizes Arien O'Connell as a winner in last weekend's Nike Women's Marathon with the fastest chip time," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "She shattered her previous time and achieved an amazing accomplishment."

Nike, celebrating its fifth anniversary sponsoring the popular event, ultimately decided rather than strip Colligan -- a former cross-country runner at Northwestern -- of her trophy, it would reward both women for their impressive races. That means a fancy bowl by Tiffany and Co. is headed O'Connell's way.

But the elite racing group, a typical procedure in many major marathons and road races, will be eliminated for this competition in the future. Some running blogs are referring to the situation as a "fiasco" with some arguing O'Connell didn't actually win because she didn't cross the finish line first.

"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," Nike said. "Learning from the unique experience in this year's race, Nike has decided ... 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."

The event, billed as the largest women's marathon in the world, drew more than 20,000 participants and raised some $18 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Men also run in the race.

Strangely enough, something similar happened in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12. Kenyan Wesley Korir placed fourth overall by chip time but he started in the "citizen's" or open race and five minutes behind the elite field, which included Kenyan winner Evans Cheruiyot (2:06:25).

Korir didn't receive the $15,000 in prize money for finishing fourth, though organizers still planned to give Korir a monetary bonus of some sort.

Timing for such races is done based not only on the starting gun time but also with a small chip, a transponder runners wear on their shoes to indicate when they actually arrive at the start and finish lines.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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