Rosie Ruiz, Who Faked a Boston Marathon Victory, Dies at 66

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Rosie Ruiz, whose name become synonymous with cheating when Boston Marathon officials vacated her victory in the 1980 race after determining that she had sneaked into it about a mile from the finish line, died last month in Lake Worth, Fla. She was 66.

Her death, on July 8, was not reported widely until the website Let’s Run published an article about it on Tuesday, citing a funeral home obituary under Ruiz’s name through marriage, Rosie M. Vivas. Cancer was given as the cause of death.

Ruiz was working as a secretary at a commodities trading firm in Manhattan when she stunned the running world by crossing the finish line in Boston in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 56 seconds. It would have been the third-fastest time ever recorded by a woman in a marathon.

But suspicions about her victory arose immediately. Spotters had not seen her at checkpoints along the 26-mile course, and after the race she told a television interviewer that she had run only one other marathon, the 1979 New York City Marathon, and that she had finished that race in 2:56:33.

“So you improved from 2 hours and 56 minutes to 2 hours and 31 minutes?” the interviewer, Kathrine Switzer, a TV commentator who had gained fame as the first woman ever to run in the Boston Marathon, asked incredulously.

“I trained myself,” Ruiz replied, without explaining further.

She then appeared not to understand Switzer’s questions about interval training — workouts designed to improve a runner’s speed.

“Rosie Ruiz, the mystery woman winner — we missed her at all our checkpoints,” Switzer said as Ruiz stood by, a laurel wreath on her head.

Ruiz’s claim about the New York race quickly unraveled. Susan Morrow, a freelance photographer, came forward to tell The New York Times that she had been on the subway with Ruiz during the marathon and that Ruiz had told her that she had dropped out at the 10-mile mark with an injured ankle.

After leaving the subway, Ms. Morrow said, they walked to the finish line and watched Grete Waitz win the women’s race.

New York City Marathon officials invalidated Ruiz’s time after reviewing videotape showing that Ruiz had not crossed the finish line in the time she claimed. Another runner, Cindy Wuss, whose finishing time was closest to Ruiz’s purported time, said she had never seen her.

Days later, Ruiz’s victory in Boston was also nullified. Race organizers there based their decision on about 10,000 photographs taken along the last mile of the race as well as on information supplied by the news media and observers along the route. In addition, at least one witness recalled seeing Ruiz enter the course at Kenmore Square, about a mile from the finish line.

The evidence proved that the Canadian runner Jacqueline Gareau had won the race.

A complete obituary will appear shortly.


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