Some things should be self-evident. Like the fact that I run with an entourage consisting of very short people with runny noses and a propensity for whining should indicate that I am well versed in how babies are made. (Stranger at Trader Joe’s, sneering, “Don’t you know how those are made yet? Me: Why, don’t you? Are you looking for tips?) Something else that you would think would be self evident: the first person over the finish line (barring cheating) at a race is the winner.
Not so, says the Nike Women’s Marathon. The largest women’s marathon in the world, famous for its Tiffany-designed finisher’s pendant in lieu of a medal, awarded 1st place to the woman with the second-best time. Arien O’Connell, a fifth grade teacher from New York, actually ran the marathon in the shortest amount of time. So why isn’t she wearing gold? Because she wasn’t registered as “elite” in the race. That’s right, an amateur runner beat the pros and instead of celebrating her untapped talent, they penalize her for not realizing how fast she really is.
Not being a professional runner, I’m not exactly sure why it matters what category you register under. I’m not even sure what it takes to be considered an elite runner besides fast times. I do realize that “elite” runners often start in different “chutes”, usually before the rest of the runners. I suppose that that is to given them the full advantage of an empty course so they can run their best race.
I remember running a little 10K here in Minnesota – just a few hundred runners – last year and being really surprised that the winner flew all the way in from New York to compete. She won, (by a mile), collected her few hundred bucks, smiled for a picture for the paper and then headed to the airport to go to another dinky race in another small town. I remember feeling a little ripped off. Not like I was going to win the race but it still seemed like the winner should be, you know, local.
But back to O’Connell. In the Nike race and other large marathons where the prize purse can be thousands of dollars, the practical consideration of who really won is important. And there is no doubt that she crossed that line minutes ahead* of anyone else with a truly remarkable** 2 hr 55 m 11s finishing time.
Nike recanted their idiotic stance today. Somewhat. They decided to make O’Connell “a” winner. Not “the” winner. But still, it’s something. According to Nike officials she will get the same prize as the winner and next year they are eliminating the elite category all together. All of which seems a bit too little too late for me, especially being two days after the fact. I mean, she didn’t get to stand on the podium! You can’t make that up.
Maybe I’m just bitter because my Nike running shorts are the only ones that don’t wedgify me and now I feel icky about wearing them.
Any of you shine some light on this for me? Why should elite runners get special treatment? Does this mean every runner should register as elite, just in case you have a really awesome day and win? Anyone else have a wedgie-free pair of running shorts they love? (Running skirts are awesome for this because then if you get a wedgie, at least people can’t see it.)
*Okay, dislyxec pointed out that since she started 20 minutes after the elite group, she actually crossed the finish line 8 minutes after the awarded winner. That’s good math, is what that is.
**”Truly remarkable” is in the eye of the beholder! Several commenters pointed out that this is actually kind of a crappy marathon time to be considered “the” winner. Although running a sub-3 marathon would be remarkable for me. What, this isn’t all about me??