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More Than a Runner

November 18, 2013
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Josh MacDonald (front left) earned All-Southeast Region and All-Big South honors during his redshirt junior cross country season.

Since this article was originally written for the Nov. 16 issue of Flames Illustrated, MacDonald closed out his 2013 cross country season in impressive fashion. He became the 10th different Liberty men's runner to earn all-region honors, thanks to a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. MacDonald was the Big South Conference's highest finisher in the race and helped the Flames place 10th as a team.

Josh MacDonald is not only a distance runner for the Liberty Flames cross country and track & field teams, but also exceeds the distance as a father, teammate and student.

Prior to coming to Liberty in 2010, MacDonald was a decorated high school senior who had his sights set on surpassing all expectations. Coached by former Lady Flames distance runner Jo (Welch) Standfield at Redwood Christian High School, MacDonald knew Liberty University was the place to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics.

Originating from San Leandro, Calif., MacDonald comes from a loving and supportive family. Adopted at a young age, MacDonald said, "Being adopted has been a gift from God." One of four children, MacDonald has learned what it is like to have a mother and father who love unconditionally. Both MacDonald and his sister were adopted by Ed and Lisa MacDonald, and he commented that he often forgets he is adopted. "My family has been very blessed because we all get along so well. That doesn't happen very often with blended families."

A year ago, MacDonald extended his support system when he married the former Desiree Zulim, and they welcomed their first daughter, Myla.  He commented about being a father and student-athlete saying, "It is a unique experience and my wife is so supportive. Being able to come home from practice and having my daughter run up and greet me is the highlight to my day."

When asked about how marriage and being a father has changed his spiritual growth and even running, MacDonald was quick to comment saying, "The reasons I run are so different now. I know Liberty University is exactly where God wants me and my family." Both MacDonald and his wife are originally from California and being away from their families has been difficult. However, they are blessed with how the Lord has provided and are anxiously awaiting their second child.

Recently MacDonald was an important part of the Liberty men's cross country team which won its unprecedented ninth consecutive Big South Conference title. The redshirt junior finished fourth overall, picking up his seventh career All-Big South honor, and finds it a privilege to continue a legacy of success that has been years in the making. Assistant coach Josh McDougal has been a large part of that legacy, leading the Flames to the first three Big South titles of their current streak as a runner and then returning to coach his alma mater to additional championships. "Coach McDougal is so supportive and even pushes us on a personal level to be better."

Upon first meeting MacDonald one can't help but notice his upbeat demeanor and enthusiasm for cross country, his family and even his future. When asking McDougal to describe MacDonald in one word, his immediate response was "happy." "Josh is one of the most positive people I have ever met," McDougal added.

McDougal recalled the 2013 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round Track & Field Championships, when MacDonald didn't run as well as expected. However, after the race was finished and a short time had passed, MacDonald was already eagerly looking ahead to the upcoming cross country season and couldn't wait to compete again. "Josh has so much enthusiasm and brings not only a lot of mileage to the team but also hard work," McDougal noted.

McDougal commented about how proud he is of MacDonald and all that he has accomplished through cross country and his incredible track & field career as well. "Every guy on this cross country team is a leader and that's what makes this team so special, it's not just one guy." This is proven by just looking at the results from 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships. Liberty finished first with a final score of 40 points and three runners coming in the top 10 of the 8K competition- Jeremie Bourget (3rd), MacDonald (4th) and Sam Hibbs (9th).

While cross country and track & field have been a vital part of MacDonald's life, he is looking forward to life after Liberty. Currently majoring in sport management, MacDonald has started several businesses including a landscaping business his brother still runs in California, selling shoes through eBay, and "Runnin2win," where he coaches and trains high school track and cross country athletes. He currently trains several runners in his home state of California and a young man from China.

MacDonald says he wants to use his passion for running to help others. He decided to major in sport management because he knew he would be able to influence young people through athletics. Ultimately, MacDonald wants to become a Division I track and cross country coach and, if the chance arises, he would like to run on the professional level as well.

Anyone that meets Josh MacDonald is instantly aware of his love for his family, cross country and the Lord. Although not every aspect of his life may have been the way he imagined, MacDonald has beaten the odds and become a part of the legacy he talks so much about. Through cross country, fatherhood and academics, MacDonald continues to run with perseverance the race that is marked before him.
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Laurel Atwood is a senior at Liberty University and is an intern in the athletics communications office.