Rosie Ruiz

Last updated

Rosie Ruiz
Personal information
CitizenshipUnited States
Born(1953-06-21)June 21, 1953
Havana, Cuba
DiedJuly 8, 2019(2019-07-08) (aged 66)
Lake Worth Beach, Florida, United States
Height5 ft 3 in (1.60 m)
Aicaro Vivas
(m. 1984;div. 1986)
Life partner(s) Margarita Alvarez
(19?? to Ruiz' death)
Sport Track and field
Event(s) 1980 Boston Marathon

Rosie M. Vivas [1] ( née Ruiz; June 21, 1953 – July 8, 2019) [2] was a Cuban-American fraudster who was declared the winner in the female category for the 84th Boston Marathon in 1980, only to have her title stripped eight days after the race when it was discovered that she had not run the entire course. She is believed to have jumped onto the course about a half-mile before the finish.


Early life and education

Ruiz was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to Memphis, Florida with her family in 1962 when she was eight years old. [3] After immigrating to the United States, Ruiz was separated from her mother and lived with aunts, uncles, and cousins in Hollywood, Florida. In 1972, she graduated from South Broward High School and then attended Wayne State College in Nebraska. She graduated with a degree in music in 1977. [1]

New York City Marathon

She moved to New York City in the 1970s, eventually finding work with Metal Traders, a commodities firm. In 1979, she qualified for the New York City Marathon and was credited with a time of 2:56:29, the 11th woman overall—enough for her to qualify for the Boston Marathon. [4]

Ruiz's application for the NYC marathon arrived after the cut-off date for the race, but she received special dispensation from the New York Road Runners due to her claim that she was dying of brain cancer. [5]

After the 1980 Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon officials investigated Ruiz's run and concluded that she did not run the entire course, so on April 25, 1980, she was retroactively disqualified from the race. [6]

Boston Marathon

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. [7] [8] [9] 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. [4] 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. [3]

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." [10] 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. [9] 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. [7]

Two Harvard students, John Faulkner and Sola Mahoney, recalled seeing Ruiz burst out of a crowd of spectators on Commonwealth Avenue, half a mile from the finish. Not long after that, freelance photographer Susan Morrow reported meeting her on the subway during the New York City Marathon and accompanying her from the subway to the race. She lost touch with Ruiz after that, but came forward when the news of Ruiz's dubious Boston win broke. According to Morrow, she met Ruiz on the subway and together they walked a distance to the finishing area, where Ruiz identified herself as an injured runner. She was escorted to a first aid station and volunteers marked her down as having completed the marathon, thus qualifying her for the Boston Marathon. [4]

New York City Marathon officials launched an investigation and could not find any sign of Ruiz near the finish line. On April 25, based on this and other evidence, the games committee of the New York City Marathon retroactively disqualified Ruiz from the 1979 race, with marathon director Fred Lebow saying she could not possibly have run the entire course. [6] [3] Later that week, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) disqualified Ruiz from the Boston Marathon. While New York's action seemed to have automatically disqualified Ruiz from Boston as well, Boston officials wanted to do their own investigation before taking action. [4] Gareau was declared the female winner, with a time of 2:34:28—at the time, the fastest recorded for a woman in the Boston Marathon. [11] Lyons was moved up to second; her time of 2:35:08 was the fastest ever recorded for an American woman in a marathon at that juncture. [12]

During a CTV interview in July 2019, Gareau said that she felt pity for Ruiz, but had no ill feelings toward her. [13]

Later life and death

In 1982, Ruiz was arrested for embezzling $60,000 (equivalent to $161,000in 2020) from a real estate company where she worked. She spent one week in jail and was sentenced to five years' probation. [14] [15] She then moved back to South Florida, where she was arrested in 1983 for her involvement in a cocaine deal. She was sentenced to three years' probation. [15] [16] In January 1984, Ruiz married Aicaro Vivas, [1] divorcing in August 1986 but keeping the Vivas surname thereafter. [17] In April 1993, she was working in West Palm Beach [15] as a client representative for a medical laboratory company. [17]

As of 2000, she still maintained that she ran the entire 1980 Boston Marathon. [4] However, an acquaintance, Steve Marek, said that she admitted to him a few months after the race that she had cheated, recalling that "she jumped out of the crowd, not knowing that the first woman hadn't gone by yet. Believe me, she was as shocked as anyone when she came in first." [2]

Ruiz died of cancer at age 66 on July 8, 2019, in Lake Worth Beach. [2] [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Boston Marathon Worlds oldest regularly run marathon

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon race hosted by several cities in greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts, United States. It is traditionally held on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897, the event was inspired by the success of the first marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors. Its course runs from Hopkinton in southern Middlesex County to Copley Square in Boston.

New York City Marathon American race

The New York City Marathon is an annual marathon that courses through the five boroughs of New York City. It is the largest marathon in the world, with 53,627 finishers in 2019 and 98,247 applicants for the 2017 race. Along with the Boston Marathon, it is among the pre-eminent long-distance annual running events in the United States and is one of the World Marathon Majors.

Joan Benoit American distance runner

Joan Benoit Samuelson is an American Senior Grand Masters marathon runner who was the first women's Olympic Games marathon champion, winning the Gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She held the fastest time for an American woman at the Chicago Marathon for 32 years after winning the race in 1985. Her time at the Boston Marathon was the fastest time by an American woman at that race for 28 years. She was inducted into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2000.

Paris Marathon Annual race in France held since 1976

The Paris Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by the city of Paris, France. It is the marathon with the second-most finishers in the world, behind the New York City Marathon.

Ingrid Kristiansen Norwegian long-distance runner

Ingrid Kristiansen is a Norwegian former athlete. She was one of the best female long distance runners during the 1980s. She is a former world record holder in the 5000 metres, 10,000 metres and the marathon Kristiansen was a World Champion on the track, roads and cross-country. She was the first athlete to win World titles on all three surfaces. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, she finished fourth in the first women's Olympic marathon. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, she dropped out of the 10,000 metres final while leading. Early in her career, she was also an elite cross country skier, winning several Norwegian titles and a European junior championship.

Jacqueline Gareau Canadian marathon runner

Jacqueline Gareau is a Canadian runner who won the Boston Marathon on April 21, 1980. Gareau led the women's field for most of the race, only to find another runner, Rosie Ruiz, wearing the traditional victor's laurels when she crossed the finish line. Ruiz was later disqualified after it was determined she hadn't run the entire race, and Gareau was awarded the victory in a special ceremony one week later. Her official time for the 1980 marathon, 2:34:28, was the fastest time recorded for a woman in the event's history at the time.

Rita Jeptoo Kenyan marathon runner

Rita Jeptoo is a Kenyan marathon runner. Originally a winner of the Boston Marathon three times, including setting the then course record at 2:18:57 in 2014, she had also won marathons in Chicago, Stockholm, and Milan, as well as having represented Kenya in the event at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics. She was the bronze medalist at the 2006 IAAF World Road Running Championships.

Kara Goucher American long-distance runner

Kara Goucher is an American long-distance runner. She was the 10,000 meters silver medalist at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics and represented her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. She made her marathon debut in 2008 and finished third the following year at the Boston Marathon.

Shalane Flanagan American long-distance runner

Shalane Grace Flanagan is a former American long-distance runner, Olympic medalist and New York City Marathon champion. She was the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon since 1977. She holds the NACAC area record in the 5000 meters (indoor) and the 10k road race.

1983 World Championships in Athletics – Womens marathon Long distance running race at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics

The women's marathon was one of the road events at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. It took place on 7 August 1983, starting and finishing at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The race was won by Norway's Grete Waitz in 2:28:09, ahead of Marianne Dickerson of the United States in second and the Soviet Union's Raisa Smekhnova in third.

Kim Smith (runner) New Zealand runner

Kimberley "Kim" Smith is a New Zealand middle-distance and long-distance runner who retired in 2016.

Mary Jepkosgei Keitany Kenyan long-distance runner

Mary Jepkosgei Keitany is a Kenyan professional long distance runner. She is the world record holder in a women-only marathon, having won the 2017 London Marathon in a time of 2:17:01. As of November 2019, she sits third all-time at both the marathon and half marathon.

Desiree Linden American long-distance runner

Desiree Nicole Linden is an American long-distance runner. She represented the United States in the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics women's marathon. In 2018, she won the Boston Marathon, becoming the first American in 33 years to win the woman's category in the event. She holds the women's 50K world record of 2:59:54.

Bizunesh Deba Ethiopian long-distance runner

Bizunesh Deba, also known as Buzunesh Deba, is a Bronx-based Ethiopian long-distance runner. Her personal best for the marathon is 2:19:59, set during the Boston Marathon in 2014.

Jemima Sumgong Kenyan long-distance runner

Jemima Jelagat Sumgong is a Kenyan long-distance runner who competes in marathon races.

Marathon course-cutting occurs when runners complete less than an entire course of a marathon before going over the finish line. The standard length of a marathon course is 42.195 kilometers, about 26.2 miles. Course-cutting may be intentional or unintentional and can be achieved by various means. When done intentionally, course-cutting constitutes cheating.

2019 Boston Marathon 2019 running of the Boston Marathon

The 2019 Boston Marathon was the 123rd running of the annual marathon race held in Boston, Massachusetts. It took place on April 15, 2019. The elite men's race came down to a sprint finish, which Lawrence Cherono won in 2:07:57. The elite women's race was won by Worknesh Degefa, who took an early lead and built up a large gap between herself and the other runners, in 2:23:31. The men's and women's wheelchair races were won by Daniel Romanchuk in 1:21:36 and Manuela Schär in 1:34:19, respectively.

Worknesh Degefa Ethiopian long-distance road runner

Worknesh Degefa is an Ethiopian long-distance road runner. As of April 2019, she is the fourth-fastest female marathoner in history, based on her 2:17:41 run at the Dubai Marathon, January 25, 2019. The winner of the race in Dubai was Ruth Chepngetich, who holds the third-best marathon time. Degefa had won Dubai in 2017 in 2:22:36. She returned in 2018 to run 2:19:53, finishing fourth behind three other Ethiopians, all of whom achieved rankings in the top 25 of all time. It was the first time four women had run under 2:20 in the same race. As of April 2019, she is also ranked just outside the top 25 in the half marathon, running 1:06:14 at the Prague Half Marathon in 2016.

Debbie Mueller is an American middle and long-distance runner who won many major road races in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Dublin Marathon.


  1. 1 2 3 Marquard, Bryan (August 7, 2019). "As in life, apparent death of Rosie Ruiz shrouded in a bit of mystery". The Boston Globe . Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 Sandomir, Richard (August 8, 2019). "Rosie Ruiz, Who Faked Victory in Boston Marathon, Dies at 66". The New York Times . Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 Scorecard. Sports Illustrated , May 5, 1980.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Burt, Bill. Rosie's Run. The Eagle-Tribune , April 16, 2000.
  5. Staff Writer (April 19, 1993). "Whatever happened to Rosie Ruiz?". The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Associated Press . Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  6. 1 2 Amdur, Neil (April 26, 1980). "Miss Ruiz Deprived of New York Finish". The New York Times . p. 24. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  7. 1 2 Mass Moments: Rosie Ruiz Steals Boston Marathon. Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, April 21, 2006.
  8. Rosie Ruiz wins the Boston Marathon at Museum of Hoaxes
  9. 1 2 Moore, Kenny. Mastery and Mystery. Sports Illustrated , April 28, 1980.
  10. Kidd, Patrick (August 22, 2007). "The top 50 sporting scandals". The Times. London. Archived from the original on July 26, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  11. "Seko Clocks A Boston Record". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. April 21, 1981. p. 19. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  12. "Rosie Ruiz Tries To Steal the Boston Marathon". Running Times. July 1, 1980. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  13. Case, Andria (July 24, 2019). "Canadian Boston Marathon winner inducted into Hall of Fame 39 years late". CTV News Channel (Canada). Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  14. Hornus, Tony (April 24, 1982). "The Boston Marathon: One of Kind Event". Argus-Press . Owosso, Michigan. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  15. 1 2 3 "Whatever happened to Rosie Ruiz?". Toledo Blade . AP. April 19, 1993. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  16. "Rosie Ruiz arrested for cocaine dealing". Spokesman-Review . Spokane, Washington. AP. November 19, 1983. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  17. 1 2 "Rosie Ruiz Says She'll Run Again". AP. April 20, 1998. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  18. "Rosie M. Vivas Obituary - West Palm Beach, FL". Dignity Memorial. Retrieved August 5, 2019.