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Running Away From Doubt: Isabel Marsh’s Journey to Confidence on and off the Track

By Kurana Doobay

“Dedicated, hard worker, overcomer.”

When asked about cross-country athlete Isabel Marsh, these are the words that come to mind for Katie Rees, head coach of Adelphi’s track and field team.

Cross country may just seem like running to most. Marsh, a junior marketing major, thought the same thing when her coach in middle school suggested she try the sport. She thought to herself, “Well, I can run. Sounds easy enough.”

Now, years later, she said, “I can’t imagine not doing this. My life revolves around track.”

Marsh has recently won the title of Northeast-10 champion for the 800m race – her first individual victory. She said of her achievement, “It’s the first big individual race that I won on my own. I have won relays, but this time it was different because it wasn’t a team effort, just me. So it showed me that the hard work I was putting in was worth it. It all finally paid off.”

As she was reflecting on the last few moments of her race she said, “As I was [20 meters] from the line, I was like, ‘I’m going to win this, I’m going to be the champ.’

She shared what went through her head when she realized she had just won. “I thought back to all of my races, starting from middle school and I never had a feeling like that. And that feeling was the best feeling ever. It’s surreal.”

However, her journey to becoming champion has not always been easy. Through her many years of being on the track, Marsh learned that cross country is not ‘just running.’

“Nobody sees what goes on behind the scenes – all of the [personal] challenges– so when I won, I proved to myself that I am bigger than the problems that I face,'' she said.

Sometimes, Marsh’s biggest competition is not the other runners, but herself. “I’m still learning this myself, but I think the most important thing to keep in mind is ‘don’t be afraid of failure,’” she said. “It’s easy to lose motivation and become less disciplined, especially during breaks. I get scared when I come back that I might lose a race. I feel like I’m going to fail my coach and my teammates and I really don’t want to let them down.”

She added, “I have to remind myself that I put in the work and I just have to trust the process. I give it all I have and it’s always my best.”

Rees agreed with Marsh. “I think that everything in the background that she had to work through to get to her achievement is what really makes her a champion,” she said. “The biggest thing I’ve seen for her is learning not to be afraid of failure. Knowing that she is not guaranteed the outcome she wants, but still willing to go for it and put it all on the line.”

Rees described how she has seen Marsh overcome her challenges first-hand through the three years they have been working together. “I see her tackling things more head on now. Before, she would let her challenges get the best of her. Growth wise – she has been able to go with the flow more.”

Marsh has also learned how to face the competition with more confidence. “I was always terrified of them, but then I changed the way I thought about the competition. At first, I thought they were scary, and that they would crush me, but now I remind myself that I got this. I remind myself that I’m supposed to be here too.”

Rees said Marsh takes a leadership role on the team. “She is a very subtle leader. She leads by example, sometimes not even meaning to,” she said. “She’s really blossomed into the role as she has become more confident with herself and her abilities. The other ladies have seen her grow and her confidence gives them confidence.”

This season, Marsh has set some goals for herself. “I hope to be a repeat champion, to continue my winning streak. I want to qualify for the [NCAA] finals,” she said.

One thing that helps Marsh balance her life academically, athletically and personally is planning. “I have a student athlete planner and I write everything down there. It really helps to keep me manage my time and stay on track,” she said.

Her planner includes everything from daily to-do lists to academic assignments, to goal times for races.

Running, both literally and figuratively, has taken Isabel Marsh from a place of self doubt to self confidence. Her journey serves as a reminder to stay on track, even if it is not the kind she is running on.

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