If you believe what Malia Crouse tells you, you will come away thinking she barely made her high school cross-country team, she wasn’t good enough to run for the University of Oregon, where she went to college, and that she runs because it’s a great way to hang out with her friends.
Actually, that last part is true – Crouse’s infectious smile and easy going personality will make you want to join her on a run too.
But good luck keeping up.
In her debut marathon in 2013 (Atlanta, while visiting her brother) she was the first female finisher, and crossed the line with a big smile on her face. She won her next two marathons as well – Maui in 2014 on her 30th birthday and Big Sur in 2015.
In December of 2015, she placed 8th at the Honolulu Marathon and was the first American female with a time of 2:51:52. Just for reference, the “B” standard to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials is 2:45, meaning that Crouse’s times are up there with the best runners in the country.
Still, Crouse won’t fess up to being fast. She will maintain that she is just doing what she loves.
“I’m an early bird,” says Crouse, who moved back to Maui from Colorado last year. “I have to be at work at 7:45, so I’m out of bed at 4:30 or 5, I do a little stretching and eat something, and I’m out the door for a bike ride or a run. It’s just how I like to start my day.”
Unlike many elite runners who have time for naps, massages, and two workouts a day, Crouse heads to the office after her run, where she works for Maui County in the Housing Division managing federal affordable housing grants.
“There is a crazy big need here on Maui. It’s scary sometimes.”
Although Crouse grew up on Maui, she went to college at the University of Oregon and moved to Colorado for about a decade, where she started cycling.
“My mom is from Denver, and I fell in love with Colorado three months after moving there. I really thought it would be my forever home,” said Crouse.
Already a runner and cycler, Crouse easily slid into the triathlon scene. She qualified for and competed in the 70.3 World Championships in both 2011 and 2012 and had her best finish at the Boulder 70.3 as the fourth amateur female in 2013.
And that’s when she caught the marathon bug.
“I love being in the ocean, but whenever I was done with the swim and the bike in a tri, I was so excited to run!”
After her 2015 Honolulu Marathon, Crouse felt Hawaii tugging her back home. Luckily, for XTERRA, Crouse discovered she loves the trails as much as the roads.
When she moved back to Maui in 2016, she jumped in the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Run and finished second. In December of 2016, she ran in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship and placed third. Last week, she ran in the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Run and won against a tough field that included XTERRA Age Group World Champ Nadine Nicolas, and Georgia Nesbitt, who is a member of the Rowing Australia team.
The race came down to a close finish between Crouse and Nesbitt before Crouse pulled away on the beach.
The first thing Crouse said after she crossed the finish line was, “I had so much fun out there.” Then she turned to Nesbitt and said, “Wow, you set a blistering pace.”
Within five minutes, the top three women were chatting as though they had known each other forever and had not just been duking it out on the trails.
But this is what Crouse loves most – using her sport to create community.
“Did you know that Maui doesn’t even have a running store?” Crouse asks. “That’s the one thing I’ve taken to heart since moving back to Maui. I really want to foster and grow our running community.”
Crouse recently started the Maui Running Company, which sells hats and shirts, but is really geared towards organizing group runs.
“Our Sunday runs are our group runs, and that’s my favorite day of the week,” said Crouse. “I call it the Church of the Sunday Long Run.”
Currently, Crouse is leading a group that is training for the Honolulu Marathon in December.
“Tomorrow we are doing a 20-mile run with bike support. It’s just that community building piece that brings us together.”
Crouse’s goal at the Honolulu Marathon is to win the Kama’aina Award, which is given to the first male and female Hawaii-born runners who currently live in Hawaii.
“I would really love to win that,” says Crouse.
Because of her goal, Crouse was going to stay off the trails and concentrate on the road. But then the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Run happened.
“Trail running wasn’t on my radar this fall,” she admitted. “But after the Kapalua Trail Run, I talked to my coach in Colorado and he could hear it in my voice. My parents said they could see it in my face.”
On December 3rd, Crouse will be joining a strong women’s field that includes two-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ Polina Carlson, Australian mountain runner Emma Kraft, XTERRA Trail Run National runner up Giselle Slotboom, and XTERRA Gunstock runner up Jill Thompson.
Of course, for Crouse, the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is another opportunity to make new running friends.
But then that competitive fire comes out.
“In high school, our cross-country meets were only two miles long,” says Crouse. “My teammates joke now that I was just getting warmed up.”