Monday 19 August 2019

Boston Marathon cheat Rosie Ruiz dies aged 66

She crossed the line in a then-record time of two hours and 31 minutes.

Rosie Ruiz waves to the crowd after after being announced as winner of the women’s division of the Boston Marathon (AP File)
Rosie Ruiz waves to the crowd after after being announced as winner of the women’s division of the Boston Marathon (AP File)

By Jimmy Golen and Rhonda Shafner, Associated Press

Rosie Ruiz, who was stripped of her Boston Marathon victory in the 1980 race after cutting the course, has died aged 66.

Ms Ruiz, who was also known as Rosie Vivas, went on to become an enduring symbol of cheating in sport and died of cancer in Florida.

“It’s a colourful 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 next to him on the awards podium.

“Poor Rosie, she took all the brunt of it.”

She wasn't sweating enough, she had on a heavy shirt, she didn't know about running

An unknown who did not look or act like she had just run 26.2 miles, Ms Ruiz finished first in the women’s division in Boston in 1980 in a then-record time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 56 seconds.

Even as she was awarded her medal and the traditional olive wreath, her competitors wondered how a woman they had not ever heard of — or seen on the course — could have won.

“We knew that she had jumped in. We, who knew what the marathon was, we got it,” Mr Rodgers said.

“She wasn’t sweating enough, she had on a heavy shirt, she didn’t know about running.

“I was with her the next day on TV, and she was just crying her head off,” he said, adding that he thought Ms Ruiz wanted to confess.

“If she had just said, ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’ Runners — we all drop out of races — we would have understood.”

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Ms Ruiz’s title was stripped eight days later when it was found that she had not run the entire course (David Karp/AP)

In an era before tracking chips and electronic checkpoints, race organisers used spotters to scribble down the bib numbers of runners going by.

Ms Ruiz did not show up there, on videotape or in any of 10,000 photographs taken along the first 25 miles of the course.

Grilled by the Boston Athletic Association about her training methods and pace, she had no answers and did not seem to recognise terms that would be common for elite marathoners.

She also could not identify landmarks she would have passed on the course and two Harvard students soon came forward to say they saw her join the race near Kenmore Square, about a mile from the finish.

Ms Ruiz was stripped of her title eight days after the race and Canadian Jacqueline Gareau was declared the rightful winner and brought back to Boston the next month to receive her prize.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Ms Ruiz came to the United States as an eight-year-old and settled with relatives in the Miami area.

According to the obituary posted by the Quattlebaum Funeral, Cremation and Event Centre in West Palm Beach, Florida, she studied piano at Wayne State College in Nebraska, moved to New York for five years and then back to Florida, where she worked as an accounts manager for a medical laboratory and as an accreditation specialist for the Better Business Bureau.

She married Aicaro Vivas in 1984 and the couple divorced just under three years later.

According to the obituary, Ms Ruiz died on July 8 and is survived by her domestic partner, Margarita Alvarez, and a brother, Robert Ruiz.

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