BY CARMEN SIERING
When it comes to crossing items off your bucket list, there are sometimes cards that force your hand. For Margie Kobow, a local triathlete and USA Triathlon Level One coach, that card was an X-ray. In November 2011, a nagging hip injury prompted a trip to the doctor and the subsequent diagnosis of arthritis. “When the X-ray came back, I wasn’t surprised,” she says. “My mom had her right hip replaced when she was fifty-five.” At age 47, Kobow knew it was time to attack one item on her bucket list: completing an Ironman Triathlon [swimming 2.4-miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles, all in under 17 hours].
Bloomington Bagel Company owner Sue Aquila, herself a world-class Ironman, offered to be her coach. “Margie does so much with the running program and cardiac program at the Y,” Aquila says. “For me, it was a great opportunity to coach someone who has given so much to the community.” They decided on a target—the Ironman Louisville in August 2013—and her training began.
Kobow also needed to maintain her coaching credentials and, knowing how many people had benefitted from Kobow’s guidance, Chris Zonkel, her assistant at the YMCA, designed a “Team Kobow” T-shirt to raise money for her training camp. “My email blew up the minute I hit send,” Zonkel says. It seemed everyone who knew Kobow—from her running group, cardiac rehab, WISE (for cancer patients), and Y-Fit programs, as well as friends and colleagues—all wanted to purchase shirts or donate money.
There was a major setback along the way. In April 2013, Kobow was struck by a truck as she trained on a bike course in Louisville. She suffered two bulging disks in her neck, a severe hematoma in her left leg, and lost strength in her right arm and shoulder. She didn’t get healthy again until a few weeks before the event.
The day of the race, her husband, Jim, and two dozen Team Kobow supporters traveled to Louisville to cheer her on. And with just over 38 minutes to spare, Kobow crossed the finish line, hearing those long-awaited words from the announcer: “Margie Kobow, you are an Ironman.” Take that, bucket list. “Seeing the shirts inspired me. They’re what got me to the finish line,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t quitting.”