After 14 1/2 miles today, there was no longer any doubt: Boston Billy Rodgers would in his fourth Boston marathon, his third straight, going away.
But even after completion of the oldest 26 mile 385 yard race in America, the outcome for the women was in doubt.
Rosie Ruiz, 26, a New Yorker running only her second marathon, was the official winner, finishing in 2:31:56, a course record that was nearly 25 minutes faster than her time in last year's New York Marathon. It was the third fastest time recorded in any marathon by a women. But race officials, and runners, expressed doubts that Ruiz ran the entire race.
Jacqueline Gareau of Montreal, who finished second, and Patti Lyons of Boston, third said they didn't see Ruiz on the course and did not remember being passed by her.
"I never saw her," Lyons said. "Her name wasn't familiar. I never heard of her. I heard I was second all the way. I never saw her at the starting line and we all started together."
Will Cloney, the race director, said there is an "obvious problem with the determination of the women's winner. At this moment, we have no proof one way or another that would cause us to reverse the decision immediately.
"However, we will do everything possible within the next week to check whether there was a discrepancy. If that proves to be the case, we will invalidate the results and adjust the places accordingly."
Cloney said he would not be able to check the results until he looked at tapes of the race. Officials keep track of only the first 100 runners coming through the checkpoints.
Cloney said that if the traditional victory laurel wreath had not already been presented at the finish line by Massachusetts Gov. Edward King he would have held up the ceremony.
"We have not talked to the young lady in question, but we have grave doubts," Cloney said.
Ruiz seemed dismayed by the affair and said, "I know I ran the course, I know I did the best I can. What else can I say? How would you feel?"
Ruiz, a native of Havana who says she trains on New York City's West Side Highway, added, "i'm sorry they feel this way. I don't think I would feel this way if I was them."
Ruiz was less definite in her recollections of the race. She did not know her splits -- times at which she reached the checkpoints -- and said she did not look at her watch, which she wears upside down, because it has no second hand.
She said she believed she passed Gareau at about nine miles, but could not be sure it was the Canadian "because I've never seen her before."
Cliff Temple, coach of Gilliam Adams, who placed fourth, said that when he arrived at the 10-mile checkpoint, the elapsed race time was 54:30. "I asked if the first women had come through and they said yes, which I thought was strange, because it was too fast," Temple said.
The U.S. women's record for 10 miles is 55:34, set this month by Anne Sullivan at the Cherry Blossom Classic in Washington.
"If she (Ruiz) jumped in, maybe she did it right there," Temple said.
Ruiz says she believes she passes Ellison Goodall at about 15 miles when she "realized I could pick up the pace a little and did."
Goodall was running with Sports Illustrated writer Kenny Moore. Moore said he did not see Ruiz, but added, "It is possible for people to skip by."
Gareau thought she had finished first.
"The man with the car (the press car), at 18 miles, he said I was first," Gareau said in halting English, the disappointment plain.
Malcolm Robinson, editor of New York Running News, who charted the first 13 women as they passed the 22-mile mark, said he did not see Ruiz.
Rodgers, who was indisputably first today, and is indisputably first among marathoners, also was skeptical.
"The second I saw her, I was skeptical," he said. "I know a top runner when I see one. She didn't look tired . . . but to go from 2:56 to beating Patti Lyons and Jacqueline Gareau, I'm sorry."
Rodgers, although he did not set a record with his time of 2:12.11, tied Clarence DeMar's mark, set in 1922-24, of three consecutive wins.
Rodgers has the appearance of that original innocent, Billy Budd. But Rodgers is nobody's victim.
Not even in the heat. It was 72 in Boston today and not a cloud in the sky. Beautiful weather for everyone but runners.
Rodgers, who especially does not like it hot, said when it was over, "I think I'm ready to retire." And winced. And smiled.
He could afford to. The race was never really out of his command. "The marathon is not always competition against other people," he said. "Sometimes, it's in your own head." That's the way it was today.
Rodgers was never more than about 50 yards behind the early leaders, who included third-place finisher Ron Tabb of Houston, and second-place finisher Marco Marcohei of Italy.
Tabb and Marcahei led at 10 miles, at a 51.04 pace that Rodgers' brother Charlie called "very fast in this heat."
But Rodgers and about 10 other runners, including Kirk Pfeffer, the man Rodgers ran down 23 miles into last year's New York Marathon, began to close on the leaders nearing Wellesley, where the college girls awaited them. "Go, Billy," they cried.
Pfeffer and Rodgers pulled away from the pack, which included Kevin Ryan of New Zealand, the runner Rodgers said he feared most in the race. At about 12 miles, Rodgers and Pfeffer passed Tabb and Marcahei, and ran stride for stride through Wellesley together. Only the double yellow line down the middle of Central Avenue separating them.
"Billy's going to have to beat him on the hills," Charlie Rodgers said. Which is what his brother always does.
Charlie Rodgers explained: "He lands on the ball of his foot. If you land on the back, you're braking instead of accelerating. When Bill comes down on a hill, he's ready to spring off."
And so he did.At the first hint of a downhill grade, Rodgers took off. He quickly was 15 yards ahead.
"I got a downhill at one point," he said, "I knew I had broken away. He (Pfeffer) did not try to go with me. I caught up with the photographers' truck and my brother Charlie told me it was 60 yards. I knew it was time to forge on."
Pfeffer not only did not keep up, he dropped out of the race at about 15 miles.
"I offered Kirk water, and he wouldn't take it," Rodgers said. "That's suicidal. I offered it once and he was just starting straight ahead. So I threw it on the ground, or over my head . . . The first time I ran Boston I dropped out, too."
Rodgers opened a lead of perhaps 200 yards as he passed through the legendary hills of Wellesley. He was so far ahead at one point that he even passed the press truck. The only thing that closed in on him was the crowd, sometimes 10 deep.
My legs started to go with eight miles to go," he said. "I'd been doing all that flat training in Florida, and I'm out there running hills. It was sheer willpower, the epitome of the marathon. It's a bitch when that happens."
"I had cramps the last six miles," he added. "If anyone had moved in on me at all, I would have stopped in the middle of the road and started crying."
There was no kick, except for the one the mounted policeman's horse took at Rogers near Kenmore Square. It was the only time he broke stride all day.
"When I'm tired, I tend to overreact," he said. "I was so freaked out . . . I was scared. I'm afraid of horses. They'll break your leg."
Rodgers would not have won his fourth Boston marathon had it not been for the Olympic boycott, since he would have passed up this race. And the throngs of barechested, beer drinking Bostonites celebrating "Patriots Day" seemed to be trying to tell Rodgers they were sorry for the medal that isn't to be.
"There were two guys on bicycles with a huge American flag and they carried it in front of Pfeffer and me," Rodgers said. "And there were a lot of Olympics symbols.
"I think Americans are for the boycott," he added, "but when the sport actually happens, they start to feel differently."
There was sky writing today in Boston. It spelled out an ephemoral message: "Fun and Game."
The top Washington-area finisher was Bruce Robinson of Silver Spring, who was 27th in 2:21.15. Robert Hirst of Washington was 42nd in 2:24.06; Jack Coffey of Alexandria was 50th in 2:25.19; Mark Stevenson of Woodbridge was 80th in 2:27.59 and Tom Skelly of Arlington was 41st in 2:41.46.
Among the women, Patti Howard of Burke finished in 3:13 and Mary Hanley of Washington came in 3:24. TOP MEN FINISHERS
1, Bill Rodgers, Sherborne, Mass. 2:12.11; 2, Marco Marcahei, Italy, 2:13.20; 3, Tabb, Houston, ton, 2:14.48; 4, Michael Koussis, Greece, 2:16.03; 5, Paul H. Friedman, New Brunswick, N.J., 2:16.46; 6, Benji R. Durden, Stowe Mountain, Ga., 2:17.46; 7, Jamie White, Mountain View, Calif., 2:17.58; 8, Stephen C. Floto, Boulder, Colo., 2:18.19; 9. Kevin Barry Ryan, New Zealand, 2:18.49; 10, Mike Pinocci, Sacramento, Calif., 2:18.52.
11, John Vitale, Rocky Hill, Conn., 2:19.01 12, Dennis J. Eberhart, Phoenix, 2:19.21; 13, Hugo Wey, Oakland, 2:19.34; 14, Edward F. Sheehan, East Weymouth, Mass., 2:19.42; 15, David Cushman, Greenville, S.C., 2:19.46; 16, William M. Sieben, Rahway, N.J., 2:20.07; 17, Michael C. Petrocci, Glen Rock, N.J., 2:20.11; 18, Richard E. Sayre, Akron, Ohio, 2:20.15; 19, Spyros Nacos, Greece, 2:20.16; 20, David P. Patterson, Norsetown, Pa., 2:20.27.
21, Harold F. Pfeifle, Kennebunk, Me., 2:20.34; 22, Robert A. Varsha, Atlanta, 2:20.37; 23, Stephen J. Flanagan, Boulder, Colo., 2:20.42; 24, Anastassios Psathas, Greece, 2:21.01; 25, Duane C. Spitz, Holt, Mo., 2:21.0 1/2; 26, Kurt Lauenstein, Essex Center, Vt., 2:21.11; 27, Bruce Robinson, Silver Spring, Md., 2:21.15; 28, Michael Weiler Cherono, North Miami, Fla., 2:21.24; 29, Mark L. Bossardet, Hunt Station, N.Y., 2:21.41; 30, Phillip S. Camp, Milton, Fla., 2:21.52.
31, Peter S. Millard, Burlington, Vt., 2:21.55; 32, Robert C. Duncan, Ithaca, N.Y., 2:21.58; 33, Jeff Galloway, Marietta, Ga., 2:22.02; 34, Matthew J. McGowan, Circleville, Ohio, 2:22.08; 35, Duane A. Gaston, Richmond, Ky., 2:22.10; 36, Paul J. Oparowski, Epping, N.H., 2:22.17; 37, Thomas W. Blumer, Cincinnati, 2:22,29; 38, Ron A. Wayne, Alameda, Calif., 2:22.33; 39, Fumiaki Abe, Tokyo, 2:22.39; 40, Thomas G. Allison Wheeling W. Va., 2:23.13.
41, Raymond Rodriguez, Round Rock, Tex., 2:23.17; 42, Robert D. Hirst, Washington, D.C., 2:24.06; 43, David W. Dial, Nederland, Tex., 2:28.18; 44, Douglas T. Kurtis, Novi, Mo., 2:24.25; 45, William Devoe, South Orange Park, N.Y., 2:24.47; 46, Guy R. Crane, Blacksburg, Va., 2:24.52; 47, Kyriakos Lazaridas, Greece, 2:24.57; 48, George M. Foley, Bay Village, Ohio, 2:25.14; 49, Michael L. Engleman, Los Gatos, Calif., 2:25.14; 50, Jack Coffe, Alexandria, Va., 2:25.19. TOP WOMEN FINISHERS
1, Rosie Ruiz, New York City, 2:23.56; 2, Jacque- line Gareau, Montreal, 2:34.26; 3, Patti Lyons, Boston, 2:35.08; 4, Gillian Adams, Bromley, England, 2:39.17; 5, Laurie Binder, San Diego, 2:39.22; 6, Kathlen Samet, Albuquerque, 2:41.50; 7, Ellison Goodall, Wellesley, Mass., 2:42.23; 8, Toni Antoinette, Houston, 2:44.40; 9, Debbie Elde, salem, Ore., 2:45.36; 10, Elaine Campo, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2:46.44; 11, Kiki Sweigart, Darien, Conn., 2:46.47; 12, Jane Robinson, Seattle, 2:47.04; 13, Linda Donkelaar, Tempe, Ariz., 2:43.33; 14, Cindy Dalrymple, Seattle, 2:48.36; 15, Lori Jorgensen, Boulder, Colo., 2:50.05.
16, Dana Slater, New York City, 2:50.24; 17, Susan Hughes, Wellesley, Mass., 2:51.02; 18, Susan Henderson, Boulder, Colo., 2:51.15; 19, Shirley Durtschi, Portland, Ore., 2:51.33; 20, Deborah Butterfield, Point Shores, Bermuda, 2:51.46; 21, Fordie Madeira, Sherbourn, Mass., 2:52.10; 22, Donna Burge, Houston, 2:53.41; 23, Jane Busch, Smithville, Ohio, 2:54.21; 24, Carol Young, Oakland, 2:54.46; 25, Diane Riley, San Diego, 2:54.48.