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On April 21, 1980, Ruiz appeared to win the Boston Marathon's female category with a time of 2:31:56. Her time would have been the fastest female time in Boston Marathon history as well as the third-fastest female time ever recorded in any marathon. However, suspicions mounted about Ruiz almost from the beginning. Men's winner Bill Rodgers, who had just won his third straight Boston Marathon, noticed that Ruiz could not recall many things that most runners know by heart, such as intervals and splits. Other observers noticed that Ruiz was not panting or coated in sweat, and her thighs were less lean and muscular than would be expected for a world-class runner. She later released stress-test results showing her resting heart rate as 76. Most female marathoners have a resting heart rate in the 50s or lower.
In addition, her time of 2:31:56 was an unusual improvement, more than 25 minutes ahead of her reported time in the New York City Marathon six months earlier. When asked by a reporter why she did not seem fatigued after the grueling race, she said, "I got up with a lot of energy this morning." Some female competitors thought it was odd that, when asked what she had noticed about the suburb of Wellesley while running through it, she did not mention the students of Wellesley College, who traditionally cheer loudly for the first female runners as they pass the campus. Most seriously, no other runners could recall seeing her. The eventual winner, Canadian Jacqueline Gareau, was told that she was leading the race at the 18-mile mark, while Patti Lyons was told she was second at the 17-mile mark. Ruiz could not have passed either of them without being seen. Several spotters at checkpoints throughout the course also did not remember seeing her in the first group of women. In addition, she did not appear in any pictures or video footage.
"Rosie Ruiz fakes Boston Marathon win-HISTORY"
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. She encountered further trouble in 1982 when she was accused of stealing money from an employer. The following year, she was caught selling drugs to undercover officers in Florida. In both cases, Ruiz served brief stints in jail. Ruiz died in 2019 in Florida.
The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897. Women were officially allowed to compete in the race starting in 1972. Following the Ruiz incident, race officials instituted tighter security measures to prevent future episodes of cheating.