Nonrunners in America, who outnumber runners by at least 3 to 1, have a new heroine. Her name is Rosie Ruiz.
Rosie claims to have finished first among the women in the sacred 26-mile Boston Marathon last week. She is supposed to have done it in the exceptional time of 2 hours, 31 minutes and 56 seconds, the third-fastest 26-mile race ever run by a member of her sex.
After the ract there was some question -- and as of this writing there still is -- that Rosie ever ran the 26 miles. Those who doubt it are racing officials who have no record of her passing any checkpoints, and other women runners who say they never saw her in the race. All films have been studied by the experts and Rosie doesn't seem to appear in any, except those in which she is shown collapsing at the finish line.
While the rest of the world has returned to more mundane matters, the question of whether Rosie did or didn't will be debated in Boston for years to come.
If Rosie did, then we nonrunners have no interest in her. But if she didn't, but claims she did, then she's our kind of girl.
Few will admit it, but those of us who don't run are getting terribly tired of people who do. It's a free country, and anybody who wants to is entitled to run. But in recent years runners have come out of the closet and insist on talking about it.
You go to the office feeling lousy and some fresh-faced, healthy male or female will come by the desk and say, "I did five miles this morning."
"Fantastic," you say. "I did the crossword puzzle on the bus."
They don't let it go at that. "I don't smoke, and I don't drink coffee and I feel like a million dollars. You ought to run in the morning. You look terrible."
"The reason I look terrible is I feel terrible. And the only reason I feel terrible is you look good. Now leave me alone."
If runners just ran in the morning it wouldn't be so bad. But more and more of them are now running during their lunch hours. At five of 12 they put on sweat suits and running shoes and tell you, "Well, I guess I'll do three miles during my break. Want to join me?"
"No, I'm going to lunch."
"You shouldn't have lunch. People eat and drink too much and it isn't healthy for them."
"I know," I say, "but I like lunch, and it gives me a chance to talk to other people who also like lunch and are in as bad a shape as I am."
If you work in an office with a lot of runners and there are no showers in the building, it can be a pretty rotten afternoon.
There are some runners who like to run after work. You see them on the streets and highways on your way home from the office, and by the time you get to your house you're filled with guilt.
That's why nonruners hate runners. They make us feel guilty because we don't enjoy pounding the pavements every day, gasping for air, with perspiration pouring down into our socks.
And that is why Rosie Ruiz's feat has so much meaning for us.
If Rosie really pulled a marathon sting operation, she surely deserves the title of the nonrunners' "Woman of the Year." All lethargic people have fantasized about winning the Boston Marathon without having to run it.
Every since Rosie's feat has been publicized, I've dreamed of jumping out of the bushes near the finish line, doused with water and painfully breaking the tape 10 yards in front of Bill Rodgers, the four-time winner.
Some might call it cheating and unsportsmanlike, but I like to think it's just getting even -- getting even with all the runners in the country who won't let us nonrunners do our own thing.
So to Rosie Ruiz -- if you pulled a fast one -- I say, "God bless you. You can have a three-martini lunch with me any time."