Talking with Carl Schueler, you would never guess what a fierce competitor he once was. Synonymous with success as a distance walker throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Schueler displays a laid back attitude that can mislead you. The four-time Olympic Games qualifier had a long and successful career race walking, while balancing a real career and life outside of race walking.
Carl Schueler may have started race walking with the biggest and shortest splash in race walking history. While a 9 th grader at a four-year Catholic high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Schueler was running a workout. He was told to jog the curves and run the straight-aways, but he was having trouble. His coach mocked, “You’re race walking,” challenging him to a quarter-mile race. Schueler walked a 1:58. Assuming his technique was legal, the performance must be some kind of unofficial record. Even if it was not legal, it’s impressive that anyone could even come near race walking so fast on their first attempt.
Schueler’s initial race walking career fizzled out as quickly as it started. He graduated high school and attended Frostburg State College, a small school in Maryland, where he ran cross country and track before becoming injured his sophomore year. When he noticed that the NAIA Frostburg included race walking on its board of events, he became intrigued. Schueler had not race walked a step since his first experience in high school. As his good fortune would have it, a teammate had a minor interest in the sport. He wasn’t very good, but he introduced Schueler to Bob Kitchen, Sal Corrallo, and the rest of the race walking community. Training mostly on his own, Schueler achieved a 7:09 mile by Christmas of 1975.
Realizing that his quarter-mile experience was not a fluke and that his talents lay more with race walking than running, Schueler trained for the NAIA Indoor Nationals. In February of 1976, Schueler finished second behind Jim Heiring, just a few short months after he had started to race walk.
Schueler continued to progress, winning the 25K at what in those days was called a B Championship. B Championships were similar to what Larry Young called Junior Championships. You could compete only if you had not won a Senior national title. As Schueler humbly recalls his success, “I won those kinds of things.” Those kinds of things also included a trip to compete at Mexican Walk Week in 1977 and Swedish Walk Week the following year.
Graduating college in 1978, he began working for the U.S. Department of Defense. By 1979, he had walked five 50K races—none all that fast, according to Schueler. At the World Cup he seemed as if he was going to have a breakthrough. On four-hour pace for most of the race, he unfortunately faded badly at the end, finishing in a time of 4:27:24.