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Rosie Ruiz, the Woman Who Faked Winning the 1980 Boston Marathon by Emerging from Spectators Near the Finish Line

Rosie Ruiz

If you are a marathon runner, you might be familiar with the term “pulling a Rosie.” The term is used as shorthand to refer to people who cheat to win a marathon. Where did this term originate? What is the “Rosie” that the term refers to? Well, the “Rosie” that term refers to is Rosie Ruiz, the woman who finished a marathon by emerging from the spectators. She won the gold medal, only to be later stripped of it when the truth came out. Now, every time someone tries to repeat the act, they are referred to as “pulling a Rosie!”

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Rosie was born in Cuba and moved to Florida in 1962 with her family. In the early 1970s, she moved to New York City and qualified for the NYC Marathon in 1972. She came in 11th and immediately qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Rosie Ruiz
Image credits: Theimperfectgame

Rosie Ruiz was born Rosa Ruiz Vivas in the capital city of Cuba, Havana. In 1962, Rosie moved to Memphis, Florida with her family. In the early 1970s, she moved again to New York City in search of work. She received a job offer from Metal Traders and was working with them when she qualified for the New York City Marathon.

The 1979 NYC Marathon had an amazing milestone with Grete Waitz coming in first with a finishing time of 2:27:33, making her the first woman to break the earlier finishing time of 2:30. Rosie also did well in the marathon with a finishing time of 2:56:29. She came in 11th in the race and was declared qualified for the Boston Marathon to be held the next year.

Rosie Ruiz took part in the Boston Marathon in 1980 and was declared a winner. She became the female with the fastest time ever in the Boston Marathon.

Rosie Ruiz
Image credits: Massmoments

The Boston Marathon took place on April 21, 1980. Rosie Ruiz completed the race with a staggering time of 2:31:56. This was the first time that the Boston Marathon has seen such a time in the female category. She became the female with the fastest time in the entire history of the Boston Marathon. Her finishing time was also the third-fastest time by a female ever recorded in any of the organized marathons.

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But soon after her win, suspicions started on whether Rosie Ruiz really ran the entire marathon. Most of the contestants didn’t see her during the race. Also, she did not seem to possess the traits of a regular marathon runner.  

Marathon
Image credits: Pixabay

As soon as Rosie was declared the winner of the Boston Marathon, suspicions started looming over the credibility of her win. Rosie’s timing was a great improvement over her last time in the NYC Marathon. But the time between both the races, which was just six months, was not enough for Rosie to make such a tremendous improvement.

Kathrine Switzer
Kathrine Switzer. Image credits: John Tlumacki/Bostonglobe

This issue was first identified by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon officially in 1967. When Switzer interviewed Rosie after her win, Rosie was unable to provide any clear answers regarding her improvement in time. When asked whether it was because of training with “heavy intervals,” Rosie’s response was, “I’m not sure what intervals are.” This seemed a bit weird to Bill Rodgers, winner in the men’s category. Rosie was unable to recall numerous things that are known by marathon runners by heart.

There were also other traits that stood out. Rosie Ruiz, unlike the other contestants, was not panting enough when she finished the race. Over two hours of running would make a person sweat and pant a bit, but Rosie was quite calm. Moreover, her thighs were less muscular and leaner than other marathon athletes. After the race when Rosie’s resting heart rate was monitored, it was as high as 76. Most women marathon runners have a resting heart rate of 50 or lower.

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Later, there came out proof that Rosie Ruiz didn’t actually finish the race. Two Harvard students saw her sneaking out from the spectators onto the track just in time to finish the race. Not long after, a freelance photographer reported that she was with Rosie on the subway during the NYC Marathon while the marathon was in progress. 

Finish the race
Image credits: Pixabay

The suspicions turned into reality when two Harvard students, Sola Mahoney and John Faulkner, reported seeing Rosie among the spectators just before the finish line. The students saw her sneaking off from among the spectators and reaching the track, just half a mile away from the finish line. John Faulkner told the Globe, “I saw a woman stumble out of the crowd. She looked like she wasn’t a runner. Her arms were flying around. She was wearing a number. I didn’t take her very seriously.” But then he saw the winner’s photo in the newspaper the next day and was astonished that it was the same woman he saw emerging from the spectators.

Another thing hit the news when a freelance photographer, Susan Morrow, reported that Rosie was with her on the subway when the NYC Marathon was in progress. Rosie told Morrow that she had a sprained ankle and had to drop out of the race. But since she still wants to see the finish line, she is taking the subway. Morrow accompanied Rosie to the marathon. This meant that she couldn’t have been a part of the NYC Marathon from the start to finish.

Based on these witnesses, officials started an investigation. The investigation led Rosie Ruiz being disqualified from the 1979 NYC Marathon. This led to her being automatically disqualified from the Boston race as well. 

Investigation
Image used for representational purpose only. Image credits: JD/Flickr, Pixabay

Officials from the New York City Marathon launched an official inquiry into Rosie’s running record. Based on various evidence that they accumulated from numerous witnesses, Rosie Ruiz was disqualified from the 1979 NYC Marathon. Based on the evidence, it was clear that there was no possible way Rosie ran the entire course of the race.

As for the Boston Marathon, Rosie was immediately disqualified from it too as soon as she was disqualified from the NYC race. Even so, the Boston officials conducted their own investigation. Rosie’s Boston win lasted for eight days before the officials passed on the victory to the right person, Jacqueline Gareau. Gareau had been skeptical about Ruiz’s win since the beginning as she didn’t see Rosie anywhere at the beginning of the race.

But all throughout, Rosie remained adamant that she had indeed completed the Boston Marathon.

After the marathon mishaps, Rosie has been arrested twice, but she still claims that she ran the entire Boston Marathon. 

Interview
Image credits: CBS Evening News via Vampire Robot/Youtube

Rosie’s life didn’t turn out for the better after the marathon mishaps. She had her first arrest in 1982 when she was caught embezzling $60,000 from the real estate firm she worked for. After this incident, she moved back to south Florida. In 1983, she was arrested again for being involved in a drug deal. As of 2000, Rosie still claims that she finished the 1980 Boston Marathon and deserved the medal.

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