The following is a commentary blog from WBRC Sports Director Rick Karle:
It's hard to explain the rush of excitement and pride one gets when watching the world's greatest running event. Perhaps it's the shear numbers (30,000 took part on Monday), the human drama, the physical pain that the runners endure in running 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boylston. Yes, the Boston Marathon is a spectacle, as it was Monday when Ethiopians Lemi Bernahu Hayle (2:12:44) and Atsede Baysa (2:29:19) were crowned the men's and women's winners. But it was the women's winner 36 years ago who is most famous to this day, and yours truly lives with the embarrassment of falling directly into her charade.
The pressure was on this young intern back on April 21, 1980. I was a month from graduating from college, and the radio station at which I was interning sent me on a huge story (at age 22 with no degree in hand, covering the Boston Marathon was a huge story). As thousands ran the Boston Marathon, with TV cameras and helicopters hovering, Rosie Ruiz crossed the finish line in what was then the fastest women's Boston time ever (2:31:56). As she made her way to a news conference in the Prudential Tower, I gave chase and finally cornered her for my big "one-one-one" interview in an elevator. As we ascended to the top of the Pru, I captured my interview and bolted back to the radio station. This was my time to shine, as the station's News Director told me to get on the air and share with New England the exclusive interview. That night I was feeling satisfied and proud. "Heck" I thought, those TV stations in Boston like WBZ and WCVB would be calling me soon to offer me a job." The next morning I picked up the "Boston Globe", and there was the headline: "Rosie's A Fake." Ruiz had jumped into the marathon a few miles from the finish line and faked her own victory. No wonder Jackie Garaeu, who was the race leader in Wellesley at the 24-mile mark, was shocked to cross the finish line only to see Ruiz wearing the laurel wreath.
Sure, I was young and raw, but looking back on the day I should have known. There stood Ruiz, barely out of breath, her hair in perfect form. Several of the female race leaders insisted they never recalled seeing her on the course, while a group of college kids did see Ruiz jump into the race near Commonwealth Avenue, about a half mile from the finish line. In fact after the race, Garaeu, who was eventually named the marathon winner once the Ruiz fraud was discovered, was reported to have asked Ruiz about her intervals, to which Ruiz replied, "What's an interval?"
Seems this 26-year-old New Yorker had quite a history. In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, Ruiz needed a fast time in the New York City Marathon. Rosie absolutely nailed it in NYC... by riding the subway for most of the race route. And how did Ruiz qualify for the New York City Marathon after missing the deadline to enter? She received a special exemption into the race by claiming she had a brain tumor.
Just years ago, Rosie Ruiz continued to claim that she won the 1980 Boston Marathon. As a young reporter, I certainly didn't win, but I must admit: When I nabbed that one-one-one interview with Ruiz after the race, it was obvious that her acting skills were superb as I fell into one of the most infamous hoaxes in sports history. My lesson learned? Whenever I cover a marathon, I make sure I ask race participants if they've seen the winner for the past two-and-a-half hours. Hey, ya can't be too careful!