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Swoosh! Nike reverses course on SF marathon winner

October 23, 2008 | 12:31 pm

Runners in Sunday's Fifth Annual Nike Women's Marathon pass near the Bay Bridge in San Fransisco.

Arien O'Connell, a fifth-grade teacher from New York City, ran the fastest time among women in Sunday's Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. (Yes, some men ran, too.)

Except, she did not win, because she did not enter the race as an elite runner, and thus did not begin with the other elites. Instead, she ran with the pack of 20,000 regular folks who started a few minutes later.

At first, Nike refused to acknowledge O'Connell's winning performance. Then C.W. Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle got hold of the story:

"That's pretty weak," said Jon Hendershott, associate editor of the authoritative Track and Field News magazine, based in Mountain View. "Think of the PR they could have had with this girl coming out of nowhere. It sounds like they got caught totally off guard."

O'Connell, who describes herself as "a pretty good runner," had never managed to break three hours in five previous marathons. But as soon as she started at 7 a.m. Sunday, she knew it was her day. In fact, when she crossed the finish line 26.2 miles later, her time of 2:55:11 was so unexpectedly fast that she burst into tears.

"I ran my best time by like 12 minutes, which is insane," she said.

And now, as CNBC's Darren Rovell reports, Nike has come around.

Congratulations to Arien O'Connell, and to Nike, for quickly Just Doing It ... the right thing, that is.

-- Steve Clow

Photo: Runners in Sunday's Fifth Annual Nike Women's Marathon pass near the Bay Bridge in San Fransisco. Credit: Nike

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