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First-Place Fake-Out: Woman Who Didn't Run Marathon Stripped Of Title

Last Sunday, runner Kendall Schler was the first to cross the finish line at the GO! St. Louis Marathon. She received a $1,500 check and a photograph with Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the finish line. Trouble is Schler of Columbia, Mo., had not run the entire 26.2-mile course.

That's not all. Schler, race organizers say, also faked her third-place finish at last year's race – with a time that allowed her to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon this year.

St. Louis marathon officials stripped Schler of her title, voided last year's time and banned her from future Go! St. Louis events. Organizers of the Boston Marathon vacated her entry into Monday's race.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

"[B]y Wednesday, officials had determined Schler did not run the marathon in downtown St. Louis either year. She is believed to have slipped onto the course after the last checkpoint in an attempt to fool race officials into believing she ran the entire 26.2 miles. Officials said that Schler did not register any times on the route, and that a review of last year's marathon photos failed to turn up images of her on the course."

Nancy Lieberman, president of GO! St. Louis, told The Associated Press today that race officials had questions about Schler's performance immediately after the race. Here's more:

"Contrary to marathon guidelines, Schler had a bib and number on her leg and covered by a shirt. Schler later admitted she removed the timing strip from the bib each of the past two years to explain why her seven interval times were not registered, Lieberman said. U.S. Track and Field officials on the course also never saw Schler among competitors, and certainly not among the leaders."

Lieberman told the AP she spoke with Schler on Wednesday and described the conversation as "nondescript."

"Most people, quite frankly, would be defensive, but say, 'Yes, I really did (run the race),'" she told the AP. "I explained I would have to contact Boston and let them know (about the questioned qualifying time), and she wanted to know how she could find out if she can run Boston. That was pretty much the end of the conversation."

KSDK, a local television station, has video of Schler crossing the finishing line. In it, she does not appear to be pleased as one might be if (s)he won a race.

The actual winner was Andrea Karl, a doctoral candidate at Washington University in St. Louis, who finished with a time of 2:54:28.

Schler's is not the first person to cheat at a marathon. Perhaps the most famous deception was carried out by Rosie Ruiz, who pretended to win the 1980 Boston Marathon by joining the runners a mile from the finish line.

More recently, the New Yorker reported on the story of Kip Litton, a Michigan dentist, who apparently cheated in a slew of races across the country.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.

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