Halting marathon mix-ups More on college basketball

The controversy surrounding Monday's Boston Marathon has not abated. Serious doubts remain as to whether Rosie Ruiz, the first woman acroos the finish line, did in fact go the distance.

At this stage, no one has proved that she did not run, yet the circumstantial evidence weighs against her. The skeptics, including the top race officials, question how such an unknown could suddenly appear out of nowhere to win, and lop three minutes off the record to boot.

Whatever the resolution to this controversy, something needs to be done to prevent similar confusion in future marathons.

The problem stems from the fact that the women's competition is a race within a race. With the men outnumbering Boston's women starters by nearly 10 to 1, difficulties arise in sorting out the female leaders, who are usually a couple of hundred or more places back in the field. No official accounting is made of their whereabouts on the course, as is done with the men, since only the first 100 runners are tabulated at the six checkpoints en route.

A workable solution might be to establish a special women's gate or lane at each checkpoint. Instructed to run through this designated area, women would separate themselves from the rest of the field long enough for officials to record their entry numbers and relative positions. Similar arrangements could be made to keep track of runners in the "masters," or over-40, category. And if these gates should begin to clutter the checkpoints, checkpoints for the various runner divisions could be spaced out along the 26-plus miles.

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