Competition is ingrained in human nature. The struggles for food, money, and land have been the pivot points in the history. And, ever since humankind first began to participate in playful sport, there have been those who were looking for shortcuts.
And, in the annuls of sports history, there have been few bigger cheaters than the Boston Marathon’s Rosie Ruiz. Born in Havana, she was a Cuban-American immigrant who is best remembered for her dubious competition in the Boston Marathon of 1980. On April 21, she sprinted to a 2:31:56 finish, making her the top female finisher in the race.
But, rather than running the entire 26.2-mile course, Ruiz instead jumped in from the crowd. While she had begun the race with the rest of the pack, she’d apparently dropped out somewhere early on. From there, Ruiz caught a ride on the subway, coming out somewhere near the finish. She hopped the barrier and sprinted for the finish line.
Her victory was met with instant skepticism. There was no one who could remember seeing her run through the early portions of the course, and there was no video evidence to back up her claims. She was also remarkably free of sweat and signs of exertion, claiming that she’d “got up with a lot of energy [that] morning.” The media was further puzzled by the fact that she failed, when asked about her recollections of the race, to mention the cheering fans of Wellesley College, who typically root heavily for the female runners.
As things turned out, her entry into the marathon itself was obtained through dastardly means. She had faked an injury after another subway jump, and the medical attendants marked her down as a competitor.
Ruiz was eventually stripped of her medal, following an investigation by race officials. It was awarded instead to Canada’s Jacqueline Gareau, who finished with a time of 2:34:28.
Thanks in large part to the cheating on the part of Ruiz, several marathons around the nation implemented much greater security measures. Increased surveillance and transponder timing RFID systems have provided much more reliable results.
Jacqueline Gareau, in 2005, was also allowed to garner a modicum of satisfaction. She served as the grand marshal of the Boston Marathon, and participated in a staged recreation of her finish.