Nike Did It: Steals Woman Marathoner's Victory

Last Updated Oct 23, 2008 2:20 PM EDT

womens_marathon.JPGOn Oct. 19, Nike ran its fifth annual Nike Women's Marathon, in San Francisco. Runners raised some $18 million for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The official winner of this year's run was announced as Nora Colligan, of Austin, TX. Her time? 3:06.

But wait a second. Arien O'Connell, a 24-year-old school teacher from New York City ran the 26.2 miles in just 2:55:11, almost five minutes ahead of Colligan.

So why did Nike proclaim Colligan the winner? Evidently, some marathoners are more equal than others. The race was divided into two groups: the "elite" runners -- the ones Nike believed actually had a chance to contend for the blue ribbon -- and the schlubs just shuffling and puffing along for charity's sake. The elites start their marathon some 20 minutes before the riff-raff start theirs.

The fact that school-marm O'Connell beat out the elite Colligan for time is certainly an embarrassing PR situation for Nike, but it also presents the company with an ethical dilemma. In a time-based foot race, the one who crosses the tape in the shortest time is the winner, end of story. Yet it seems that the company had promised a select group of runners that the winner would only be selected from their numbers. The company did attempt a lame pedal-and-fill response, saying that it "recognizes Arien O'Connell as a winner" â€" though not the winner. [poll id=66]