Columbia Woman Takes Shortcut To Win Marathon And What We Can Learn From It…Updated

Kendall SchlerI feel really bad for Kendall Schler, the 26 year old woman from Columbia who race officials stripped of her win in St. Louis’ GO! Marathon after determining that she didn’t run the entire course. If her name and picture hadn’t already been displayed in both the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Columbia Tribune, I wouldn’t include it here because I take no pleasure in her pain.


According to reports, Ms. Schler snuck onto the course after the last check point and crossed the finish line in an attempt to be declared the winner. In 2014 Schler had finished the same race in third place with a time that easily qualified her for the Boston Marathon. But as a part of their investigation into this year’s race officials reviewed last year’s race and decided that she hadn’t run the complete course either year. Schler was disqualified in both 2014 and 2015 GO! races as well as forfeited her opportunity to run in Boston.

In 1980 Rosie Ruiz was declared the winner of the 84th Boston Marathon only to be disqualified 8 days later after it was learned she didn’t run the entire course. Ms. Ruiz’s life continued to decline as she was convicted for embezzling $60,000 and later arrested for her involvement in the sale of cocaine.

Shortcuts are tempting because they promise the reward without investing time and effort. We’d love to find a shortcut to getting out of debt that would allow us to avoid the hard choice of saying no to something we really want. We’d love to find a shortcut to a good marriage that would allow us to avoid considering our spouse as more important than ourselves. We’d love to find a shortcut to good health that would allow us to eat whatever we want without any consequences.

I don’t know what Kendall Schler’s motivations were for taking a shortcut and pretending to win a marathon that she didn’t run. Clearly to some degree she wanted the benefits of winning (the fame, money, opportunity) without actually having to train. Many Christians want a shortcut to spiritual maturity. We want to have Christian character or a mature prayer life or a deep understanding of the Bible or a God honoring marriage without much praying, studying, reading and self-sacrifice. Here’s the thing: If the marathon officials weren’t fooled by Kendall Schler or Rosie Ruiz, how much less will God be fooled by us?

There is no shortcut to spiritual maturity. If you don’t read your Bible, you won’t understand it nor be transformed by it. If you don’t invest time and effort in Christian friendships, you won’t have the spiritual support you need and want. If you don’t show up at church regularly, you won’t get the spiritual feeding God intends. If you don’t serve, you won’t become like Christ. I could go on and on but you get the point: There are no shortcuts in becoming like Jesus.

The training required to run a marathon can be found on lots of websites. Knowing what to do is easy. Doing it is hard. The same can be said of “training” to be Christlike. We have a pretty good idea that it involves reading a little bit of the Bible each day, spending few minutes dwelling on a verse or two from Scripture, praying through a Psalm, putting what you’re reading into practice, asking God to help you believe the gospel’s promises are a few of the ways we can train spiritually. Knowing what to do is easy. Doing it is hard. But shortcuts never work.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 …train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Update: I’m not on Facebook but a friend told me that a couple of people are upset that I used Kendall’s Schler’s name in this post. One woman said that I “called her out” and that it seemed “unchristian to point a finger and announce her sin.” A couple of thoughts…

1. If you reread the first paragraph of the post, you’ll see that I said that I wouldn’t have used her name or drawn attention to her in any way if her name hadn’t already been in both the St. Louis and Columbia newspapers. I feel really badly for this woman but the reality is that her name is in the public conversation.

2. I’m not sure that I think that it’s “unchristian” to use an illustration of a public figure. It would be “unchristian” to attack her or condemn her. But after having asked several people I trust to read the post, I don’t think I did those things.

3. As a pastor I use illustrations all the time in sermons, classes, and blog posts to name a few. Why did this one strike a few people in a way none of the others have? I think it’s because this is a local person and Columbia has a bit of a small town feel (and I mean that in the best possible way). I mentioned Rosie Ruiz in the same post but no one was bothered by that. In fact no one has ever told me that I shouldn’t use illustrations and examples based on real people. But of course most illustrations are based on national figures not local ones.

4. It would be wrong of me to condemn, attack, belittle, or humiliate a person in an illustration regardless of where they were from. And I hope that I never do that. If I do, please tell me. I’m easy to get in contact with.

5. There is a good lesson in all of this that I can learn from. When it comes to mentioning people living in Columbia, even public figures that have already been in the news, I need to be extra sensitive. I’m sure that if I knew Kendall Schler, I’d prefer not to see her name mentioned in a local blog. Lesson learned. I’ll be more careful in the future.

One Comment

  1. Tessa said:

    Wow Keith, all,of it was well written, i appreciate the extra Grace on top at the end, bc i can see the heart. Thank you fur this post!

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