Two Sundays ago in San Francisco, U.S.A., a freakish event happened. No, prisoners did not escape from Alcatraz (it’s been closed since 1963) and, no, the red-colored Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t painted gold—it was another type of oddity.
In the Nike Women’s Marathon, a total of 20,000 runners joined. Nothing wrong with that—in fact, that’s a grand celebration on the fight against breast cancer this “Pink October.”
Now, here’s the abnormality: One runner finished first while another clocked the fastest time. Yes, no misprint there: Nora Colligan crossed the finish line ahead of everybody else while another runner, Arien O’Connell, recorded the race’s fastest time. How possible? Each runner is given a ‘chip’ that’s attached to the shoe and one’s time begins (and ends) as she crosses the starting (and finish) lines. With that chip, O’Connell ran the quickest time.
But during the awarding, Colligan won first place; O’Connell did not—which caused a controversy. Now, who should have won? Here are some comments…
Steve Ferraren of the Cebu Executive Runners Club: “I agree with the organizers. It may not be a popular one but it’s fair. It was partly her fault for not being at the front together with the elite runners because her personal best time is good enough to compete. Besides, it would have been a different situation if she was running side-by-side with the winners… the pressure would have somewhat affected all their times.”
Annie Neric, Gym Supervisor, Holiday Gym & Spa: “Wish I could be as fast as Connell (he!he!). Anyway, she should be declared the winner. Sayang, she made a wrong decision of staying at the back of the pack. Wrong move, wrong decision!”
Richard Tiu, a missionary teaching at the Bible College of East Africa in Nairobi: “I believe that in any marathon race the first to cross the finish line should be the winner because marathon races are always started en masse. It is but one race and not a group of races. Race officials were right in pointing out that running far behind the lead pack is like running an altogether different race. It is a runner’s responsibility to run with the ‘elite group’ if she is contending to win. I’m not a serious runner, sir, but I do know that running in the lead pack takes a lot of wind out of you rather than just tailing behind (in cycling the term is ‘tranko’). If it would have been an individual time trial race (ITT) in cycling, she would have won hands down.
“By the way, I’m in Kenya where the Nairobi International Marathon fires off a night’s wink from now. As you know, Kenyans are quite good in this discipline… A Cebuano far from home, Richard.”
Frederic and Millette Chiongbian: “From a production point of view, true, being a race, the first to cross the finish line is the winner. Now, what happened here is that the fastest runner did not include herself among the elite simply because she probably did not think of herself as such—being a teacher by profession.
“From an organizers point of view, and I think this will be precedence, with the start line already segregating the elites from the non elites, there should also have been an elite and non-elite categories for awarding. Runners are a time-based breed.”
Dr. George Ursal Ruiz of Sambag I: “Since this controversy arose, I presume there was no hard-set ruling or guidelines regarding this unusual marathon result. Therefore, it is just fair that awards be accorded to all deserving races. This would mean that this time, two honors be awarded: one for the one who reached the finish line first; and another one for the one who finished with the fastest time. Next time around, the organizers must be clear-cut in their rules.”
FINAL VERDICT. While Colligan was declared the champion on race day, four days after, O’Connell was awarded as “a” first-place winner (not “the” winner)—meaning Nike acknowledged both as winners, averting public backlash. So, two winners—and everybody’s happy. But, here’s the intriguing part: This compelling scenario can happen again. Till then, the message to all who’ll cross that finish line first thinking they’ve won…. Not so fast!