Rosie Ruiz, The Runner That 'Won" The Boston Marathon With The Help Of The NYC Subway
Updated: Sep 27, 2023
Rosie Ruiz, age 26, finished first in the women’s division of the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:31:56 on April 21, 1980. She was rewarded with a medal, a laurel wreath and a silver bowl; however, eight days later Ruiz is stripped of her victory after race officials learned she jumped into the race about a mile before the finish line.
The Cuban-born Ruiz, an administrative assistant from New York City, qualified for the 84th Boston Marathon by submitting her time for running the 1979 New York City Marathon. Although Ruiz never explained why she cheated, it has been suggested her boss was so impressed she qualified for the prestigious Boston race that he offered to pay her way. It’s believed that Ruiz intended to jump into the middle of the pack of runners but miscalculated when she joined the marathon one mile from the end, not realizing she was ahead of the other 448 female competitors.
Ruiz was unknown in the running world and her victory raised suspicions because it was a 25-minute improvement over her New York City Marathon time. Additionally, her winning time was then the third-fastest marathon time in history for a woman.
After studying race photographs–Ruiz didn’t appear in any of them until the very end–and conducting interviews, Boston Marathon officials stripped Ruiz of her title on April 29, 1980, and named Jacqueline Gareau of Canada the women’s division champion with a time of 2:34:28. Ruiz’s New York time was later invalidated when officials discovered she had taken the subway during part of the race.
The controversy surrounding Ruiz overshadowed Bill Rogers, who won the men’s division of the 1980 Boston Marathon for a record fourth year in a row. At the 2005 Boston Marathon, Jacqueline Gareau served as grand marshal and re-enacted her 1980 marathon performance by breaking the tape. After her cheating was revealed, Ruiz, who maintained she had won the Boston Marathon fairly, lost her job in New York.
Despite the avalanche of evidence against her, Ruiz never confessed to cheating.
“I don’t look at it now because it makes me cry,” Ruiz told The Palm Beach Post in 1998.
As part of her agreement to speak to The Post in 1998, Ruiz insisted a reporter share her claim that she didn’t cheat to win the Boston Marathon and could prove it through photographs and other evidence.
Her win, Ruiz said, was a “victory” for women. She said she still had the medal awarded after the 1980 Boston Marathon and watched the race every year.
Ruiz had various legal issues following the marathon scandals. She was sentenced in New York to five years of probation after being charged in 1982 with embezzling from her employer.
In 1983, Ruiz was arrested for her attempting to sell cocaine to an undercover Miami police officer and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Ruiz passed away in Florida in 2019. An obituary posted by Ruiz’s family through Quattlebaum made no mention of her marathon history.
“Never forget to fight, no matter what life throws your way,” reads the obituary.