Rosie Ruiz, Marathoner, 1979­80


This much we know for certain: Rosie Ruiz was the first woman across the finish line at the 1980 Boston Marathon. The problem was how much of the race she actually ran. No checkpoint officials or top women finishers could remember ever spotting her, and a couple of Harvard students claimed they saw her jumping in a half-mile from the finish.

Rosie looked good, too good, on the victory stand. She wasn’t sweating or panting, and her legs seemed soft for an accomplished runner. About the well-landmarked route, she could only remember “beautiful countryside and lots of houses and churches.” When asked for her “split” times, she hadn’t a clue as to what they were, let alone what the term meant. “I don’t know how to explain what I did,” she said. “I just got up this morning with a lot of energy.”

Later, reports came in disputing Ruiz’s qualifying “effort” of the previous fall in New York. Despite a time of under three hours, she couldn’t be found on race video, and a photographer stepped forward saying she met and talked with Ruiz on the subway while the runner was taking a shortcut. Defiant to the end, Ruiz was disqualified from both races, even as officials admitted they couldn’t conclusively prove her hoax.

Exactly two years after Boston, Ruiz was given five years probation for scamming $60,000 from her Manhattan employer. Another year later, she was popped in Miami for selling two kilos of coke. Seeking her release on bond, her lawyer told the judge, “Your Honor, she’s not a runner.”

Ruiz, who last year announced plans to run Boston 2000, might feel better to learn she isn’t the first marathon cheat whose name ends in z. At the 1904 Olympics, Fred Lorz hitched an 11-mile ride in a pickup truck for a temporary bronze. Once discovered, he was barred from competition, yet reinstated the following year, whereupon he promptly entered, and legitimately won, the Boston Marathon.