The first time Marsha Mark-Baird ran competitively, she was in the sixth grade.
Growing up in Trinidad, she had participated in other races held in dead-end streets near her home. But that time was different. That time, her father would buy her a bicycle if she won her age group.
With that incentive in mind, Mark-Baird trained hard for the race. And when the race day finally came, she not only won her age group, she beat out all the boys in her neighborhood. After that, Mark-Baird learned if you want something, you have to work hard for it.
Though athletic and well-known for her javelin throw, Mark-Baird had never even heard about the heptathlon until a coach recruited her to train for one at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). Instead of one track and field event, a heptathlon includes seven: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m. This meant Mark-Baird had to learn how to do hurdles, shot put, and high jump.
Marsha Mark-Baird, second from the right, competing at the 2004 Athens Games.
It was a steep and difficult learning curve, but within months, Mark-Baird was breaking school records. After two years she transferred to BYU, where she received a bachelor’s degree in 1997 and a master’s in social work in 1999.
Mark-Baird was first introduced to the Church after she enrolled at Ricks College. Though she liked many aspects of the gospel, Mark-Baird struggled with the idea of having a living prophet on the earth. “For five years I struggled with this, and after wondering about it and searching for answers, I finally decided to pray about it with a sincere heart,” she writes on her Mormon.org profile. “I found what I was looking for, the gospel of Jesus Christ. I received a clear, undeniable answer that the Church was true through the Holy Ghost.”
In 2000, after being baptized into the Church, , Mark-Baird made history as the first athlete from Trinidad and Tobago to compete in the heptathlon, where she placed 22. In 2004, she competed again, this time in the 2004 Athens Olympics where she placed 25.
Shortly after, Mark-Baird retired to start a family. She and her husband now have three little boys.
“My husband and my three kids are my universe,” Mark-Baird writes on Mormon.org. “I try to make sure their needs are being met as a wife and a mother. I sometimes fall short but know I can try again tomorrow. I also know that I can always work a little harder to be a good wife and mother.
“As an athlete I have learned to never give up even when it seems impossible. With the Lord on my side, all things are possible as long as I'm doing my part in sync with His plan. . . . I am not perfect, but through Him I gain my strength to try a little harder each day.”
Now that her three little boys are growing up, Mark-Baird recently came out of retirement to try for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but ultimately didn’t qualify.
However, later this fall she hopes to break a record for women over 40 when she competes in the World Championship in Australia.