“Whenever I go on a first date, I always check his Athlinks profile to see if I—or he—will be able to keep up”
Maria Kilgore’s athletic career hit a roadblock at an early age. “In kindergarten, I quit ballet because someone told me I had big thighs,” says the now 28-year-old physical therapist technician from Tempe, Arizona.
The comment stung, but by the fifth grade Kilgore was back at sport with a new passion: running. “I ran middle school and high school track and cross country,” she says. “I started running to stay in shape, but quickly found that I was building lifelong friendships through it. With running and triathlons I grew in strength, and so did my thighs. Now I’m proud of the strength I carry in something that I was criticized for.”
Kilgore kept on running through college, primarily to stay in shape; then she tackled her first half marathon after her uncle passed away unexpectedly. “He was an avid runner and cyclist, so when he passed away in an accident, I was motivated to honor the things that he accomplished,” says Kilgore. “Now, at every race I am sure to honor someone that inspires me.”
Kilgore got into triathlons a few years ago, when a half marathon she planned to run was canceled. “When I finished my first sprint, it felt like one of the toughest things mentally to get through—but I truly fell in love with the sport,” she says.
This newfound love for triathlon led Kilgore to compete in two full Ironman races (Ironman Arizona in 2016, and Ironman Santa Rosa in 2017). She’s also a regular at the Life Time Tri Tempe, where she clocked a 2:43:09 PR in the 2017 event.
“This recent PR was my first triathlon post-Ironman number two. I signed up because Iknew a lot of people would be out there racing. I wanted to be alongside of them,” says Kilgore. “After coming off of Ironman with an injury, I knew I would try to take it easy so as not to irritate the injury.At the start of the race I was a couple of minutes into the swim and realized I hadn’t started my watch! It was going to be a ‘go by feel day,’ which was perfect for being a recovery race. The PR is extra special because it showed me how my body has become stronger, even from a year ago. I’ve done this race for the past three years and each year it’s a true test of what I’ve accomplished over the year of training.”
Kilgore uses Athlinks to keep track of just how far she’s come, and to savor the memories from her race experiences. “I love Athlinks because I can go back to previous races and compare my times for the same course. This is my memory box for all of my races. I can check how well I did within the field, as well as compare my records. I love it when photos are attached because it makes it so easy to access them,” she says.
Kilgore also has a somewhat unique use for Athlinks. “Whenever I go on a first date, I always check his Athlinks profile to see if I—or he—will be able to keep up,” she says, laughing.
Whoever she dates better be ready to keep up in pursuit of Kilgore’s goals. “I want to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona,” she says. “I know I’m still a couple hours away from that goal, but setting PRs each time I compete gives me the confidence that I’m capable of being a qualifier.”
Ultimately, though, Kilgore’s goals hold even bigger meaning—for her, and for the people she hopes to inspire along the way.
“Running gave me the confidence and belief that I’m a strong person. I’m reminded through running and triathlons that there are others who support me in my endeavors. I use running to inspire myself and others that we are capable of more, every day. I want to inspire others to push beyond their limits. I want them to see that an average person can accomplish great things. I want people to find their own passion and reach further.”
It’s hard to imagine that with this type of attitude and motivation, Kilgore will do anything but continue to succeed.