She Cheated in a Big Race, but Never Copped to It

Rosie Ruiz, who briefly was crowned the Boston Marathon champ, is dead at 66
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 9, 2019 11:41 AM CDT
An Infamous Runner Is Dead at 66
In this 1980 file photo, Rosie Ruiz speaks during a news conference in New York.   (AP Photo/David Karp, File)

Rosie Ruiz, the Boston Marathon course-cutter who was stripped of her victory in the 1980 race and went on to become an enduring symbol of cheating in sports, has died at age 66. Ruiz, who was also known as Rosie Vivas, died in Florida of cancer on July 8, according to an obituary that made no mention of her Boston Marathon infamy. "It's a colorful part of the Boston Marathon history, that's for sure," said Bill Rodgers, who won the men's race that year and was immediately suspicious of the woman sitting next to him on the awards podium. "Poor Rosie, she took all the brunt of it." An unknown who didn't look or act like she had just run 26.2 miles, Ruiz finished first in the women's division in Boston in 1980 in a then-record time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 56 seconds, per the AP.

In an era before tracking chips and electronic checkpoints, race organizers used spotters to scribble down the bib numbers of runners going by. Ruiz did not show up there, on videotape, or in any of 10,000 photographs taken along the first 25 miles of the course. Two Harvard students soon came forward to say they saw her join the race near Kenmore Square, about a mile from the finish. It was never established how Ruiz got to Kenmore Square, but the ensuing investigation showed she took the subway during the 1979 New York Marathon to obtain her qualifying time for Boston. Ruiz was stripped of her title eight days after the race, and Canadian Jacqueline Gareau was declared the rightful winner. Ruiz always maintained that she won the race fairly. "I wish she would have contacted me some time and said, 'I'm so sorry,' but no," Gareau said.

(More Boston Marathon stories.)

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