Executive: Mary Margaret Malone, sales manager at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Malone, 31, manages accounts in group sales and major markets, with about $1 million a year in volume. She's been with the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay for 10 years, working her way up from a catering assistant position. She's won five companywide top sales awards, and her team won sales team of the year for the entire chain in mid-size hotels in 2014.
Diversion: Running. Malone took up running five years ago and has since become an admitted running addict. She started with 5Ks and quickly worked her way up the scale. She's completed five marathons since 2011, including the Philadelphia Marathon in November.
March forth: Malone wasn't a runner growing up in Alabama. An Auburn grad, she instead played trombone in a marching band and the piano. “I was a terrible athlete,” she says. “I didn't have any hand-eye coordination.”
Slow start: She got into running in 2010 when a colleague at the hotel asked her to join a group on a fun run, which was basically a 5K that ended at a bar. “I hadn't run since elementary school, but I decided to check it out,” she says. “But then I couldn't even run a mile without stopping.”
Like a drug: Malone kept hitting the fun runs, and within weeks picked up her pace. She fell in love with all aspects of running, both the solitude of solo runs and the camaraderie of team-training runs. She likes that it's a low barrier-to-entry sport, where pretty much anyone with a pair of sneakers could do it. Then she ran the Disney Half-Marathon, in October 2010, and was hooked. Says Malone: “That was the gateway drug to running a full marathon.” By October 2011 Malone ran her first full race, completing the San Francisco Marathon.
Team time: Malone has competed in five Ragnar Races. These are team-based 200-mile races, where each runner takes a leg or two of the race. Ragnar Races are orchestras, with van drivers and logistics coordinators playing key roles. “It's a very complicated system,” Malone says. There's an element of camping, which Malone says includes sleeping in short bursts in tight quarters with other runners. Some of the legs of the race are in the middle of the night, others in daytime.
Hills are alive: Malone has run three Ragnar Races from Miami to Key West. She also competed in Ragnar Wasatch Back in Utah in 2014, an event made more grueling from the mountains. “That was insane,” says Malone, who documented the experience in a blog post titled What the Hill? “But it was awesome when we finished.”
Feed it: Now Malone is a full-on running addict. She runs up to 50 miles a week, depending on the training routine. During the week she normally runs around her St. Petersburg neighborhood. On weekends she runs with friends, including a marathon mentor who is a big motivator.
Boston strong: Malone's short-term goal is to complete a marathon in 3 hours, 35 minutes — the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon for her age group. “That's like the Olympics of marathon running,” says Malone of the Beantown event. She missed that time goal by five minutes in Philadelphia, and hopes to do it in January, when she runs the Charleston Marathon.
Namaste: Running is the only form of hard exercise Malone says she enjoys. She goes to the gym twice a week for strength training, she says, “because I have to.” She spends a considerable amount of non-running time stretching, getting massages and going to an occasional yoga class.
Load up: Malone is a healthy eater, but she doesn't obsess over her diet. She eats mostly whole grains, and not many refined carbs, outside of the days before a marathon. Her weaknesses are chocolate chip cookies and frozen yogurt.
Stay comfy: Malone is a brand ambassador for Oiselle, a Seattle-based company that specializes in women's athletic and running clothes, and has built a community of women who often run and train together. She doesn't get paid to wear the gear, but does get some clothes for free and a discount on other products.
No quit: The best thing about running, Malone says, is it's made her a better person, from more confidence to more energy. “There are so many things you can take from running and apply to your life,” says Malone. “It helps you to achieve goals and break down barriers. It's made me tenacious, and now I go after things I didn't think I could do. I don't plan on ever stopping.”
Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon