The garage underneath "the Pru," as the Prudential Building is called in Boston, was awash with television lights. Bill Rodgers shielded his eyes, looking for the voice that had asked: "Have you heard from President Carter yet, Bill?"
Rodgers, who had just won his third consecutive Boston marathon (2:12:11), largely because Carter has said he and all the other U.S. Olympians can't run in Moscow next summer, smiled. "No" he said, "I haven't had any time for phone calls."
It was 2:45 p.m. Monday, April 21. The woman who had officially crossed the finish line of the 84th Boston marathon in 2:31.56 joined Rodgers in the spotlight and began telling the story of her life: how she emigrated from Cuba, how she hurt her knee playing touch football, how she "certainly did not expect to win."
Reporters, who did not recognize the face, took notes and shrugged. Rodgers, who had been rubbing his badly cramped legs, looked up at the ebullient young woman and said, "Hi, who are you? Did you win?"
It has been nearly a week and people are still asking Rosie Ruiz of West 43rd Street in New York the same question: "Who are you? and, "Did you win?"
Suddenly, Rosie is in the spotlight everywhere. Officially, she is still the winner. Hours after the race had ended and allegations that Ruiz had not run the entire 26-mile 385-yard race had surfaced, race director Will Cloney promised that there would be an investigation and that a decision would be made within a week. Cloney said Friday that, "Absolutely nothing will be announced until Tuesday."
Many members of the running fraternity, including Cloney and Jacqueline Gareau of Montreal, whom many consider the real woman's winner, had expected a decision earlier."I had hoped to make an announcement today," Cloney said Friday, "but the board of governors decided to hold off. They wanted to double-check every last bit of information."
Gareau was flown to Boston Thursday by a local TV station, WBZ, for an interview, said her friend and adviser, Serge Arsenault. "They told her Mr. Cloney was going to make a decision Thursday or Friday. She arrived and it was a totally different story. She was just lost. The TV people were using her as a good ratings item."
When it became clear that the decision was not imminent, Gareau called Arsenault. "She was nearly crying on the phone," he sad. "I told her to jump on the plane and come back to Montreal."
While Gareau is in limbo, Ruiz is in seclusion, according to "Superman" Steve Marek, who took her under his cape last Tuesday. At the postrace news conference, Ruiz said her roommates were her coaches, that she ran unattached. The following day, Marek, president of the Suburban Road Runners Club in Westchester, N.Y., was identified as her coach and his club as her club.
Marek denies ever saying he was her coach and says Ruiz joined the club weeks before Boston. Asked if it was true that the only time he had met her before Monday was "in an elevator," Marek replied, "Must I meet everyone in my club? I don't know all 1,800."
Marek, who describes himself as "the country's most visible runner," clad in his man-of-steel costume, was thrown out of the 1979 New York race for running under a false name.
"We don't want people to think she's gone underground. That's no fun," Marek said. "We'll get her back out midday Monday."
Ruiz is likely to remain an enigma far longer than that. Although she continues to maintain that she "ran the entire course," her name will "become a noun" synonymous with cheating, said Wendell Miller, the race director of the Chicago Marathon.
Friday, Marek raised the possibility of legal action, while stressing that Ruiz had not yet retaised a lawyer. "Those who continue to call her a liar and a cheat without substantial evidence are putting themselves on the line. They're putting themselves on the block. They would be liable for possible legal action."
The evidence against Ruiz is circumstantial so far. But said Cloney, "It is growing by the minute. We have so much, it seems almost silly."
The evidence is this: Monday after the race, several runners, including Gareau and third-place finisher Patti Lyons of West Roxbury, Mass., said they had never seen Ruiz on the course and did not recall being passed by her. Asked where Ruiz had come from, Lyons, misunderstanding the question, replied, "She says New York." It was the only laugh of the afternoon.
Many runners, including Rodgers, were skeptical that Ruiz could have lowered her New York Marathon time by nearly 25 minutes in just her second marathon. Others were skeptical about her appearance. She wasn't tired enough, they said, or sweaty enough, salty enough, muscular enough, specific enough.
Asked where she made her move during the race Ruiz said, "I believe I started breaking through at about 15 miles, but I'm not quite sure." Ruiz said she could not identify the women she passed: "Since it is only my second race, I'm not familiar with anyone else."
When pressed for details later, she said, "I just finished running 26 miles. You've got to give a person a few minutes to get their thoughts together."
Tuesday, a broadcasting team that included Kathrine Switzer, who became the first woman to run the race, unofficially, in 1967, reviewed three sets of raw videotape and could not find Ruiz on them.
Officials of the Boston marathon could not find Ruiz anywhere on at least five lists of the top women over the first 24 miles.
Several runners, including Robert Rozesky of New Watertown, Ohio, who finished four seconds behind Ruiz, say they never saw her. Two Harvard law students reported seeing Ruiz jump into the race less than a mile from the finish.
A free-lance photographer in New York, Susan Morrow, claimed that Ruiz took a subway to the finish line of the New York Marathon last October. It was her time there (2:56:31) that qualified Ruiz for the Boston race. Friday, Fred Lebow, president of the New York Road Runners Club, who said he felt responsible, announced that Ruiz's finish in New York had been invalidated.
Asked if he could provide any evidence to support Ruiz's claims, Marek said, "Just the opposite is true. What I have been able to do is refute some of the evidence that she did not run. What I can say is that you have not proven to me within a shadow of a doubt that she jumped in. I have no runners saying, "She jumped in ahead of me."
"The more evidence that comes in, the graver it looks," he added. "But as long as there is one shred of doubt, she is still innocent. I'm not sure, I am honestly not sure. I believe she is sincere -- that's what hurts, that's what makes me crazy. I believe Rosie."
Some people in the running community believe that they will never be able to say within a shadow of a doubt that Ruiz is a fraud. There were no officials checking the top women runners on the course as they passed through check points, though Cloney promised there will be next year.
"The BAA doesn't really have the tools to make a decision," said Arsenault. "That's why it's taking to long."
"The only way to know is if she accepts to participate at the next marathon. If she does anything under 2:45, you can say that it is possible that she won. If it is 2:50 to 2:55, its a trick."
If Ruiz is disqualified, she will not be the first. Michael Weiler, who entered the Boston race as Michael Weiler Cherono and officially finished 28th, was disqualified last week when officials determined that he had jumped into the race. Last April, 53-year-old Oscar Miranda was disqualified after turning in a 2:16 time to officially win his age-group race.
Last year in Chicago, on the same day Ruiz supposely was completing her first marathon in New York, the first- and second-place women finishers in America's Marathon were disqualified by race director Miller. But unlike with the Ruiz case, where the medal and laurel wreath were awarded, Miller said he "disqualified them before they finished the race."
Miller said, "I believe this is one of the side effects of the running boom. With X number of people running, you are going to have X number who would do this."
Several members of the running community, including Miller, are dismayed that the Boston officials have waited this long to make a decision. "The fact that they allowed it to perpetuate over 20 seconds is disgusting," said Jerry Kokesh, president of the Road Runners Club of America. "I was 100 yards from the finish and there was no question. I said, 'Is that the first woman?'
"It all comes back to Cloney and the BAA, who I have to call dinosaurs. They've had it, their time is up."
The Boston marathon is the oldest such race in the United States. It is an old-fashioned race with no expense money, no safeguards to prevent Rosie Ruiz or anyone else from cheating.
"If you want to put on a professional race, it should be professional from A to Z," Kokesh said. "If she had tried this in New York, she'd be hanging from a tree in Central Park. Boston is supposed to be a big deal, yet it's a two-bit race. Running has changed rapidly and they haven't been able to keep up with the times."
While no race director is anxious to organize a race with police-state tactics, "We are going to have to set up precautions to guard against this," Miller said.
The very nature of road racing makes this difficult, although not impossible. "It's more complicated than policing a golf course," said Jeff Darman, former president of the Road Runners Club of America. "They don't allow every Tom, Dick and Harry on the golf course with Jack Nicklaus. Road running mixes the elite with the nonelite."
But not in Montreal. Arsenault, the president of the Montreal International Marathon, has solved the problem by having "one elite marathon and one mass marathon the next day." He also has videotape equipment at five checkpoints and officials who check off the top 300 men and women.
But not everyone is anxious to separate the wheat from the chaff, since running with Bill Rodgers or Greta Waitz is one of the unique charms of road racing.
One of the problems for women marathoners is that they immediately get lost in a pack of male runners. Miller said, "We're going to have to find ways for distinguishing between the men and the women. Maybe they could have different colored numbers. Maybe the women will have to make sure that they're acknowledged at the checkpoints." This would put the onus on the runners to make sure they are seen and identified at a majority of checkpoints or else be disqualified.
Lebow, director of the New York City Marathon and one of the first to suspect Ruiz, suggested the possibility of a race directors' organization to work out logistical problems. "We only used video at the finish so that the runners could see themselves coming across the finish line. It was not for surveillance. This is a happy sport," he said, sadly.
Darman said, "If anything, this makes people look more at running and where it's come from since its innocent days. There's nothing new about cheating: there's baseball and the Black Sox, college basketball and point shaving, football and falst transcripts. The fact that some runners and writers have played up running as the purest of all sports set it up for a fall like this."
The fall from innocence comes at a time when some runners are openly discussing the possibility of going pro. The Washington Post reported this month that about $50,000 in prize money was paid to some top finishers in last year's New York marathon.
Marek, who says Lebow "started this attack," said, "It's funny how suddenly no one is talking about the other. I'm not saying it's a coverup but one story tends to preclude the other."
The potential problems for policing a money race are great: "Picture a $100,000 prize and somebody who isn't well known wins," Darman said."The first thing they're going to think is that he or she cheated and not just out of a laurel wreath."
"You can expect it to happen the first time they run for $100,000," Kokesh said. "I'll bet you have some controls in that race."
Even without prize money, a victory in the Boston marathon is worth a great deal, especially for women runners. "It's big deal to win this race," Kokesh said. "There are a lot of side benefits. It's their Olympics. There's a lot of prestige involved."
Darman said that Marek had told him that "offers for movies and book contracts had been deluging them all week."
Marek said there had been only one offer, for a book, but expected other opportunities for Ruiz. "She's gotten more press than Eric Heiden," Arsenault said.
"Gareau won the most important marathon in the world and her name hasn't appeared in the paper," Miller said. "If I was the gal who came in second, I'd sue the BAA."
Ironically, it took Rosie Ruiz to point out just how far marathoning, especially women's marathoning, has come, and how far it has to go.There is still no women's marathon in the Olympics, in fact no race longer than 1,500 meters.
In 1967, Jock Semple, the assistant director of the Boston marathon, tried to chase Kathrine Switzer off the course in Boston; she had entered as K. Switzer to hide her gender.
Women were officially permitted to enter the race for the first time in 1973. "When Nina Kuscsik won, they knew who all 20 women in the race were," Kokesh said. "This year, there were 500 some. It's a statement about women's running: We've come a long way that a woman cheating and winning is such a big deal."
There are those who believe that Rosie Ruiz pulled off one of the greatest hoaxes in sports history last week in Boston.
There are those, hearing accounts of her medical history (she says, "I've had four operations in six years -- on my knee, my breast, my tonsils, and a tumor removed from the side of my skull"), who question her health.
There are those who believe that she never meant to win the race, that she just wanted to finish and take a certificate back to her boss who had paid her way.
There are those who believe she won fair and square.
And there are those who remember Fred Lorz. Lorz ran for the U.S. team in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. He dropped out of the race at about nine miles and hitchhiked the next 11. But at the 19-mile mark, the car broke down and Lorz decided to run back to the stadium where he had left his clothes.
He was greeted by the roar of the crowd, a roar of approbation. But when he mounted the platform to receive his Olympic gold medal, he was denounced, and subsequently banned from amateur athletics for life.
But the officials relented; Fred Lorz ran in and won the Boston marathon in 1905.