As many of you are aware, and as many of you may have attended, the second Boston Marathon since the horrific bombings in 2013 was held this past Monday. For many, this event still brings back terrifying memories and thoughts of what happened on that tragic day. But for every mourner, there were two people their proudly showing the strength of the magnificent city of Boston. Single and double amputees, participants in wheelchairs, and others there merely to represent the strength of the Bostonian family. Although what happened two years ago has been used to strengthen the community, this week I am going to fill you all in on a different type of tragedy that happened at the same event, 35 years ago.
On April 21, 1980, Rosie Ruiz, age 26, finishes first in the women’s division of the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:31:56. She had received her well deserved medal, laurel wreath and silver bowl, or so everyone had thought. Eight days later Ruiz is stripped of her victory when officials learned she jumped into the race about a mile before the finish line. How does that even happen, one might ask. It was actually a lot easier then anyone imagined back in 1980.
She qualified for the 84th Boston Marathon by submitting her time for running the 1979 New York City Marathon, the previous November. (Which she was later accused of taking the subway during part of that race as well.) 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. This made it quite obvious due to the 25 minute improvement from her NYC time, and also putting her time third fastest in history for a woman. Officials later noticed that Ruiz didn’t appear in any of the race photos until the very end. After she was revealed, her life began a downward spiral, losing her job, spending time in jail for stealing from her employer, and selling drugs to an undercover cop in Florida.
The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897. Women were officially allowed to compete in the race starting in 1972. After Rosie’s drastic efforts to cheat the system, race officials instituted tighter security measures to prevent future episodes of cheating. Little did anyone know what would be waiting 33 years later on Boylston Street. In such a short period of time, people went from cheating the system, to bombing the system, endangering more than just moral foundations. It is safe to say that the attention of officials will be a little focused on the cheating from here on out.