Reebok Saw A Great Opportunity to Make a Runner Happy (and Embar

During the 2008 Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, Arien O'Connell ran the fastest time but didn't winA�due to Nike unnecessarily starting a non-elite group of "elite" women 20 minutes early in the race.

There was no call or reason for there to be an elite start at this race; only 15 of the top 50 finishers were male, and very few of the women that had an elite start would have qualified for the honor in any other race. Pretty much the only qualification for getting into that early start was to ask to be included.

Normally, the elite women get an early start on the rest of the field so that the camera crews can follow them without having the elite and fast amateur men getting in the way, and so that they will finish before the men without having to worry about keeping track of who is where in the race.

In this case, though, Nike seemed to just want to start some women early so that they could pretend to be larger than they were and without any good reason. A�According to the USATF rules, that meant that the first person to cross the line won the race, even though Arien O'Connell ran the race much faster.

After a firestorm by runners throughout the country, Nike awarded her an equal prize as "a" winner in the race. In my opinion, this was fair as it recognized her accomplishments while not taking anything away from the actual winner of the race.

A couple of months later, though, Arien O'Connell was in for one heck of a surprise.

Reebok, one of Nike's chief rivals in the running shoe and running apparel industry, surprised O'Connell at the elementary school where she teaches at with an awards ceremony to recognize her accomplishments from her race.

Reebok awarded her a free pair of shoes every month for the next year, a $2500 donation to the elementary school that she taught at, along with a t-shirt for all of the kids in her class and a trophy inscribed "Winner and Heroine of Non-Elite Runners Everywhere."

This was a great move by Reebok, and still amuses me to no end. It prolonged Nike's embarrassment at poorly executed race management, and fosters a lot of good will amongst the running population.

And I have to imagine that Arien O'Connell was pretty happy at having won over $1000 worth of running shoes.