Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1980

Rosie Ruiz fakes Boston Marathon win

Rosie Ruiz, age 26, finishes 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. 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.

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.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Red Baron killed in action

In the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France, Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as “The Red Baron,” is killed by Allied fire. Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the Imperial Air Service in 1915. By 1916, he was ...read more

Rome founded

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Actually, the Romulus and Remus myth originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., and the exact date of Rome’s ...read more

Naturalist John Muir is born

John Muir, a dedicated advocate for the protection of American wild lands, is born in Dunbar, Scotland. When he was still a boy, Muir’s parents immigrated to the United States. He grew up on a farm in central Wisconsin in the 1850s, a time when the region was still a relatively ...read more

Charlotte Bronte born

Charlotte Brontë, the only one of three novelist Brontë sisters to live past age 31, is born. Brontë, one of six siblings who grew up in a gloomy parsonage in the remote English village of Hawthorne, surrounded by the marshy moors of Yorkshire. Her mother died when she was five, ...read more

Death penalty executions resume in California

Robert Alton Harris is executed in California’s gas chamber after 13 years on death row. This was California’s first execution since former Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other state supreme court justices, Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso, had been rejected by California voters. ...read more