The infamous quote "Well-behaved women seldom makes history" comes to the forefront of my mind when I conjure up a memory of Rosie Ruiz. The infamous Cuban-born women (who falsely crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 21, 1980 in what is remembered by some as one the worst moments in marathon history) came into my life unexpectedly and affected me in more ways than one.
First and foremost, she unwittingly became the inspiration for me to want to RUN the Boston Marathon. Secondly -- and perhaps in the eyes of history, the more important of the two -- my friend, John Faulkner, was one of the two Harvard University seniors to visually "catch" the ruse.
Like most college students on that infamous day (which coincidentally is Patriot's Day), my friends from Boston University and I gathered on lower Commonwealth Avenue along with food and the perfunctory keg or two of Wiedeman's beer as students spilled out into the streets of Boston to tailgate and enjoy a day off from classes. We situated ourselves just past the Dugout Bar on Commonwealth Avenue, a hangout frequented by students and professors alike. The temperature was unusually warm for mid April with the temperature rising into the high 60's. The location was ideal that we chose so we could readily high five and encourage the runners and partake in the marathon mystique.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my friend John and his fellow Harvard classmate, Sola Mahoney, decided to literally run from Harvard to Commonwealth Avenue. Both were a couple of months away from graduation at Harvard. ran over the Mass. Avenue bridge and by happenstance, chose to settle in near the CharlesGate, about one half block from Comm Ave. for a day of spectating.
The marathon held plenty of interest that day. Bill Rodgers, a native of Hartford, Conn., was looking to secure his fourth Boston Marathon win. He represented the Unites States at the 1976 Olympics only to be derailed by a foot injury and finished in a disappointing 44th place. He was well on his way to being deemed one of the greatest runners in marathon history.
But Billy Rodgers was not our only interest of the day. On the women's side, a Canadian runner named Jacqueline Gareau was considered one of the top runner's in the race and favored to win. Gareau had recently won the National Capital Marathon in Ottawa in a time of 2:47:58.
Rodgers did not disappoint as he was the first elite runner to run before us in our respective spots. In doing so he went on to win his fourth Boston Marathon.
All that was left was to see whether Gareau would win another marathon as well. From the south side of Comm. Ave approached the first woman. I clearly remember screaming with excitement and awe while I watched a woman go by who was not even sweating. The woman was Rosie Ruiz, a flash before my eyes who inspired me to loudly proclaim, "Someday I will run Boston!"
The Harvardites, meanwhile, were about 1/2 block from Comm. Ave. They had barely missed Rodgers running by.
"I saw a woman coming out of the crowd on the south side of Comm Ave and start running," Faulkner said in a phone interview. "I thought it was a hoax or someone running just for the fun of it. She did not run with an elite runner's style or form."
Mahoney had agreed with Faulkner that the women's runner they saw did not run with the form of a marathon winner.
Later that night back at Harvard, there were rumblings that there was a controversy brewing as to who had won on the women's side. The following morning John and his roommates read the front page of the Boston Globe and saw a picture of Rodgers and Ruiz declared as the winners of the race.
John immediately recognized Ruiz as the woman he saw emerge from the crowd. After much prompting from friends, he rather reluctantly called the Boston Globe sports department. He was put on hold, but said he could hear people talking in the background and saying something to the effect of, "if only someone would come forward." The call was unfortunately lost, but he called back again at the urging of his friend Tom Coz to report what he had seen.
From the moment John told the Globe he saw someone jump into the race, his place in history was sealed.
By early Wednesday morning, the word was out and two television trucks complete with satellite dishes were parked at Harvard. The news coverage was worldwide and the Today show came calling to hear from the Harvardites who spotted the false marathon winner. A fleeting glance up the northerly side of Comm Ave had changed the course of marathon history.
As for myself , the gig was up when I saw the news finally and there before the camera stood my friend, John Faulkner, and his Harvard buddy Sola Mahoney telling their story. Like millions, I felt duped. Gareau finally got to wear the victor's laurel seven days later, and in her running, she set a course record for Boston in a time of 2:34:28.
Fast forward to the year 2000 which was the 20th anniversary of the Ruiz caper. There was excitement in the air as rumors flew that Rosie Ruiz was coming to run Boston. It was my third consecutive Boston Marathon, and although Ruiz had been nothing but a fraud on the day I spotted her way back when, the sight of her running still served as an inspiration to me. She is the reason I stayed true to my word and came back to run Boston not once but three times.
As Bill Rodgers once said," the body does not want you to do this."
I say " Go for it."
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