The Ballard family, of Danville, KY, has one tradition they have passed down from mother to daughter – running.

Isabelle Ballard, 29, Digital Marketing Assistant at First Southern National Bank, just finished her 7th marathon (26.2 miles). She ran in the Revel Mount Charleston Marathon in Nevada with her mother Genny. She was inspired by her mother and grandmother, Margaret Mary.

“My grandmother says she was the first female runner in Bardstown,” Isabelle joked.

Her mother and grandmother have both trained and run marathons throughout their lives. Isabelle was empowered by the women in her family to continue the tradition.

“When I was growing up, my grandmother had a poster in her laundry room,” she said. “It was a black and white picture of a woman running, and it said, ‘Women run countries. Women run businesses. Women run households. Women run.’ I remember looking at that all the time when I was a kid and being inspired by it because it’s true. Women are capable of anything.”

Isabelle didn’t start running until she was in college.

“I was studying abroad in Spain,” she said. “For the first month, I was there, I needed something to do outside the house. There was a park close to my apartment, so I committed to running for 30 minutes three times a week.”

She started making friends in the process, which made her feel more at home while studying abroad.

“It was a good way to connect with people during that time in my life,” she said.

While running was common in her family, Isabelle struggled at first. She had to work hard to build up her endurance.

“It was really hard to start,” she said. “I wasn’t a good runner.”

When she returned to the United States, she decided to keep running and connect with other runners on Centre College’s campus. In doing so, she was able to bond with her mother, who is a professor at the college.

“I decided to train for my first marathon,” she said. “My mom was doing her second marathon, so it was something we could do together.”

In 2015, they ran their first marathon together in Ohio at the Air Force Base. Since then, they have made it a tradition to run the marathons together.

“It was something my mom always saw as a goal,” she said. “I wanted a way to spend more time with family. I wanted to run with my mom and my grandmother as a way to bond with them.”


Isabelle has a whole team behind her to help her prepare for each marathon.

Dr. Jonathan Esteve, who was on the Spanish National Team in the 1990s, served as her running coach. Though they didn’t attend at the same time, they both studied at the University of Lleida in Spain. They eventually met through Isabelle’s mother, who he was already training.

She had a fitness instructor, Ann Mosley, who helped her each week to lift weights and build endurance. Josue Rodriguez, who is also a marathon runner, served as her nutritionist. He helped her develop a diet plan and helped her with her nutrition on race day.

With her team, she developed a plan for success, but it wasn’t easy.

“I trained a lot this year in windy conditions,” she said. “The hardest part was not getting frustrated with myself when I had planned a long run, and the winds were extreme. I knew it was going to affect my performance.”

The longest training run that she had to do was 20 miles.

“On that day, I remember the wind speed was really high, so I felt like it was a challenge to just run in a straight line at all,” she said.

One of the most important aspects of her training is training slowly with a low heart rate.

“I had to really fight myself to run slowly because I wanted to get it over with,” she said. “It was hard to focus on the ultimate goal of running the marathon.”


Isabelle finished the Mt. Charleston Marathon in Nevada this April, which started at the peak of the mountain. Her goal was to cross the finish line in under four hours, but her trainer was concerned about her heart rate.

“My heart rate had been so high on the long run days that he didn’t think I could maintain a steady heart rate through the whole race,” she said. “He was worried that I would hurt myself.”

Unless she could finish the first half of the marathon in under a certain time, under a certain heart rate, she didn’t have the go-ahead to shoot for her goal of finishing in under four hours.

“I am the kind of person that if someone tells me I can’t do something, I am going to do it extra well,” she laughed. “I thought, ‘I am going to make it in under four hours if it’s the last thing I do.’”

All joking aside, she watched her heart rate throughout the race and kept her heart rate steady enough that she crossed the finish line in in 3 hours, 51 minutes, and 39 seconds.

“I realized, ‘Oh wow, I am going to do this,’” she said. “It made me feel unstoppable. It really made me feel like everything in my life was going to work out.”

Running has taught Isabelle a lot of things in life – dedication, endurance, and will power.

“I learned that I am capable of hard things,” she said. “I went from someone who couldn’t run for 30 minutes to someone who is now running marathons.”

These lessons have had impacts beyond running, as Isabelle works to meet the ever-changing demands of the marketing world in her position at First Southern.

“Much like running a marathon, working with our team to meet the goals of the bank takes time, discipline, and dedication to seeing things through,” she said.

Isabelle said that it is rewarding to do things like marathons because she has a support system behind her. It’s not just her team. It’s her family – her mother and her grandmother.

“I have a family that loves me and knows the time that I have sacrificed to reach this goal and what it means to me,” she said.

What’s next for Isabelle? She is focusing on getting her time down. She also plans on running a half-marathon in Mexico City in July and a marathon in Houston, TX next year.