Throwback Thursday: When Rosie Ruiz ‘Won’ the Boston Marathon
Rosie Ruiz made it look easy, and that was her downfall.
When Ruiz, an unknown 26-year-old living in New York, won the Boston Marathon’s female division on April 21, 1980, with a record-breaking time of 2:31, she played the part well enough. She staggered across the finish line. She celebrated when the laurel wreath was placed atop her head. But there was one thing she couldn’t fake: sweat.
Onlookers, like then-New York City Marathon Director Fred Lebow, immediately questioned her fresh appearance, according to Mass Moments. “Her hair in place?,” Lebow said. “Her sides dry?” It certainly didn’t look like she’d just run 26.2 miles.
Nobody along the course had seen her do it, either. No cameras, no fellow runners, no race officials. Jacqueline Gareau, the woman who finished next, seemed shocked not to be crowned the winner. It was as if Ruiz had come from nowhere.
Of course, she came from somewhere—it just happened to be closer to Kenmore Square than Hopkinton. Officials eventually determined that Ruiz had hopped into the race at the last minute, running only the final fraction of the course and cruising to a sweet, false victory. About a week after her alleged win, Ruiz was stripped of her medal, and Gareau was declared the female winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon.
As it would turn out, Ruiz had pulled the stunt once before. Earlier that year, she’d run the New York Marathon with a brisk, if lower profile, time of 2:56, finishing 24th among women. Race officials learned later that Ruiz had taken the subway for most of the race, only running enough to appear to have finished legitimately.
Despite overwhelming evidence, Ruiz vehemently denied having cheated her way to a Boston Marathon victory. To this day, however, there’s a phrase in the marathon lexicon: When runners are caught cutting a course, they’re deemed the Rosie Ruiz of the race.
She may not have any medals, but in her own way, Ruiz will live on in marathon history.