The Go! St Louis Marathon is experiencing an unexpected wave of attention after being forced to disqualify their 2015 Women’s titleholder, upon discovering that she had cut the course to secure the win. Kendall Schler, a Missouri resident and local athlete, was the first to cross the finish line, securing the winner’s photo with Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee and a $1,500 prize.
However, suspicions quickly arose regarding the integrity of Schler’s win when race officials realized that Schler had arrived ahead of the pace bikes intended to guide the lead runners to the finish. Officials said that they had not noticed Schler on the course at all — much less among the leaders — and others pointed out that her race bib was improperly attached to her shorts and was obscured by her shirt. When the race director confronted Schler about her finish, she said she had removed the timing strip from the back of her race bib — and did so at all of her races. That is why, she said, she would not have registered at any of the course timing mats.
Officials pressed for photos to confirm that Kendall had completed the course, but she opted not to provide any such evidence and in turn has been stripped of her title.
The true winner, Andrea Karl, completed the course in 2:54:28, but she arrived at the finish line without her deserved fanfare. S he was awarded the prize and title after the disqualification had been made official. Karl is a doctoral candidate at Washington University of St. Louis.
While this act of cheating alone would have many up in arms, Schler’s ethics were then drawn further into question when it was discovered that she had placed third in the Marathon in 2014, qualifying her for a coveted spot in the Boston Marathon. Upon further investigation, Go! St. Louis race officials determined that Schler cheated during the 2014 marathon as well, and she has been stripped of her title and banned from all future events with the organization.
Schler has participated in other endurance events, including the military-style GoRuck team events. Upon reading of her cheating in the marathon, other GoRuck teammates reflected on her participation in past events with frustration. They noted that she tended to complain and to be behave as something of a “Gray Man” — someone who tries to stay out of the spotlight so as to avoid carrying team weight, by carrying the flag a lot and generally avoiding offering to assist in challenges. Schler has done several of these events.
As Marathon officials looked to wrap up the paperwork from the disqualification, Go! St. Louis President Nancy Lieberman contacted Schler to let her know that she would have to contact the Boston Athletic Association to let them know that her qualifying time was no longer valid. Lieberman describes the conversation as “nondescript.” She says that Schler has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations of cheating and only wanted to know if it would still be possible for her to run in Boston this year. The BAA has since voided her entry.
As Schler’s story has spread through running communities, anger has surged at what can feel like a chronic problem with cheating and integrity in running races. Schler has been compared to Rosie Ruiz, who cheated her way to victory in the 1980 Boston Marathon by jumping onto the course only a mile from the finish. Others have revisited the 2012 New Yorker Expose on Kip Litton, a man who cheated his way to dozens of top Master’s Division Marathon finishes, going so far as to falsify the existence of a marathon in its entirety to pad his racing resume.
Ultimately, justice has been seen, and perhaps the greatest crime here is not the cheating itself, but that Andrea Karl was denied the experience of winning the title of the Marathon she earned over 26.2 grueling miles. As different racing organizations continue to try to crack down on ways to cheat the distance through timing chips, checkpoints and photographs, one can only hope that stories of poor integrity in the running community become fewer and fewer.
VIDEO BELOW: Meet Jacqueline Gareau, the 1980 women’s Boston Marathon winner who was cheated from the glory of her win by Rosie Ruiz.