By Robert Johnson
August 5, 2019
The most famous marathon cheat of all has died.
Rosie Ruiz, who for eight days was credited as the 1980 Boston Marathon champion even though she jumped on to the course and only ran roughly the last half mile of the race, died on July 8 in Florida after a 10+ year battle with cancer, according to an obituary on dignitymemorial.com. She was 66 years old.
Suspicions about the legitimacy of Ruiz’s run started before she crossed the finish line. She hadn’t been spotted at any of the intermediate checkpoints, she wasn’t covered in sweat, and take a look at how she looked as she ran over the line in the video below. Does this look like a 2:31:56 marathoner to you?
Post-race, men’s champion Bill Rodgers realized Ruiz didn’t know basic things like her splits while she was on the awards stand with him.
After Ruiz told journalist Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 was the first official women’s entrant to run Boston, in a television interview that Boston was her second race ever and that she’d improved from 2:56 in New York to 2:31, a skeptical Switzer asked Ruiz, “Have you been doing a lot of heavy intervals?”
Ruiz’s response was classic, “Someone else asked me that. I’m not sure what intervals are. What are they?”
Switzer concluded her interview by saying, “Rosie Ruiz. The mystery women winner. We missed her at all our checkpoints.”
Ruiz never owned up to her deception in Boston. But it soon came out that she had taken a subway to near the finish in New York and on April 25, four days after Boston, New York retroactively disqualified her from their 1979 race. Boston followed suit four days later on April 29, awarding the title instead to the first legitimate woman across the line, Jacqueline Gareau of Canada, whose 2:34:28 time broke the course record.
In 1982, Ruiz spent time in jail after embezzling from a real estate company where she worked. In 1983, she was arrested for her role in a cocaine deal and served three years of probation. According to her obituary, she spent he spent the majority of her career working for Laboratory Corporation of America. For the second half of her life, Ruiz went by the name Rosie M. Vivas — a name that, according to the AP, she kept since her divorce in August 1986. She is survived by her domestic partner of 26 years, Margarita Alvarez, and Alvarez’s three sons.
In the 39 years since Ruiz cheated in Boston, there have been plenty of course-cutters disqualified from marathons all over the world, but none for first place in the world’s oldest annual marathon.
Talk about Ruiz on the LetsRun.com messageboard. The messageboard is actually how I learned of her death. We’ve always said the best part about LetsRun.com is you the reader.
Update on 8/8/2019. The NY Times has an article out on her death that gives prominent mention to the LRC messageboard.
Marathon Cheats on LRC Over The Years:
2019: Frank Meza 2:53:10 at LA Marathon (70 years old) unofficial time (just finished) *Sad News: Frank Meza Found Dead In LA River – LetsRun.com
2016: Marathon Man Robert Young Exposed As A Complete Fraud After Independent Investigation
2015: Lehigh Valley Got It Wrong: The Evidence Is Conclusive: Mike Rossi – The Viral Boston Marathon Dad – Is A Marathon Cheat And Should Never Have Been On The Starting Line In Boston *Did Mike Rossi – The Viral Marathon Dad – Try To Cheat LetsRun.com Out Of $10,000 On Saturday?
2011: Rojo says he might start a Kip Litton thread but only 1 and only 1 thread
2001: Martin Franklin- You Should Be in Jail