Imagine trying just to complete an Ironman Triathlon World Championship – 146.2 total miles of running, swimming and biking in Hawaiian heat without stopping.
Then consider the challenges Scott Rigsby faced in 2007 trying to become the first double below-the knee amputee to complete the ultimate endurance sport.
Rigsby’s unthinkable journey riveted a crowd of 400 Wednesday at the Hollenbeck Bayley Conference Center during The Gathering of the Miami Valley’s Fall Outreach Breakfast.
The Gathering is a faith-based men’s group that sponsors inspirational activities and meetings.
“My life radically changed in nine seconds, but it was a mini miracle in that I was still alive,” said Rigsby. “What people wrongly look at is the worst thing that happened was I lost my legs. The worst thing is losing yourself to fear, the worst killers of dreams.”
At age 18 and weeks from his freshman year of college, Georgia native Rigsby was severely injured in a truck accident, losing his right leg, barely maintaining the left leg (later amputated) and suffering third-degree burns on his back.
A blur of surgeries, school and nearly 20 years of being unfulfilled followed. It all changed in early 2006 when he read two stories.
One was about the Ironman and the other about a soldier who lost his legs in a roadside bombing.
At age 39, Rigsby found a new lease on life and two goals: to train for and complete the Ironman, and to work with others who have suffered similar injuries.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said.
Despite not knowing how to swim or ride a bike on prosthetics, Rigsby set out on a Rocky-like training regimen, eventually setting records for a double below-the knee amputee and a slot on the 2006 USA Triathlon team.
But the Ironman was the summit for Rigsby.
At numerous points he felt like quitting that October day in 2007. Picturing the wounded vets he wouldn’t be able to help and his own brother, who wasn’t supposed to live past age 5, pushed Rigsby through the pain, finishing in 16 hours, 43 minutes, just 17 minutes shy of the cutoff.
He established the Scott Rigsby Foundation and spends his days speaking, working with vets and others, and still sometimes competing.
“It’s all because I had a dream bigger than me and people around me to help let go of my fears.”
Rigsby’s story resonated with students in Jessica Dewey’s seventh grade class at Emmanuel Christian Academy.
“This is a critical age for these kids, and this can teach them how they can support each other,” she said.
Gathering member and Ohio Valley Medical Center COO Ron Shoemaker responded to the message and the man.
“My family loves any type of athletics, and his story is fantastic, the type I look for,” he said.