If my friend Scott, a double amputee can run an ironman, what’s your excuse

Just when I needed more motivation on Monday, comes through this e-mail about a friend of mine Scott Rigsby. He graduated the year ahead of me and had a terrible accident that almost ruined his life.

He's the first double amputtee to complete an iron man. Here's the story from the AJC.

IRONMAN TRIATHLON

Double amputee struggles, succeeds
Atlanta's Rigsby pays price for making history

By STEVE HUMMER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/22/07

The Atlanta Ironman kept to his wheelchair this past week. The ends of
his amputated legs were blistered, swollen and raw, and showing signs of
infection. His muscles felt like they had been doing laps through a
pasta maker. The gifts of completing one of the globe's notorious
endurance races just kept giving.

A week ago, on the big island of Hawaii, Scott Rigsby, 39, became the
first below-the-knee double amputee to complete an Ironman triathlon.
That meant swimming 2.4 miles without legs, then biking 112 miles and
running a 26.2-mile marathon with prosthetics. He had 17 hours to
complete the task. He made it in 16:42:46 — a little close, but that
kind of history didn't require much margin.

All this was set in motion when the teenaged Rigsby was injured in a
south Georgia truck accident. He would begin exiting a long period of
depression and pain through physical exertion. Nearly two years ago, he
decided to test himself against some of the hardest races, vowing to
compete and complete. He lined up sponsors. He began a foundation aimed
at enabling physically challenged athletes. He rounded up the people and
the technology to make an audacious idea possible.

One catch. He actually had to do this thing.

“We hate to say it,” said Scott Johnson, a friend who is helping
organize the Rigsby Foundation, “but if he didn't finish, he'd be just
another person out there on prosthetics trying to do the unthinkable and
not being able to do it.”

Rigsby had tried once and failed to complete an Ironman event in Idaho
earlier this year when he crashed during the bike segment. He arrived in
Hawaii weighed down by the need for credibility.

In the race program, he was heralded as “The Miracle.” Earlier in the
week, a wounded veteran approached Rigsby after a practice swim and told
him, “You have got to finish this race because you can change the world.
Our military men and women need you.”

Those were among the thoughts in his head with about seven miles to go
in the final, marathon leg as he was on pace to just miss the cut-off
time.

“He's not going to make it; he's absolutely not going to make it,”
Johnson fretted.

That simple prayer Rigsby offered before the event — “God, if you open
up a door, I'll run through it” — didn't seem quite so simple now.

Rigsby sailed through the start in the ocean, safe for being kicked once
in the face. A strong headwind for the last third of the bike course
depleted his strength and his wiggle room with the clock. And in the
pitch darkness amid some lava fields, he was hitting the infamous
“wall.” He struggled through that, picking up his pace.

The last three miles, he said, comprised the worst pain he has felt
since he had begun competing.

“I started talking to myself: You have three miles to go; if you can
just do three miles, you have an opportunity to really change the world.
You can have an impact,” he said.

When he hit the finish, the sound from the crowd, he said, “was like the
loudest SEC game you've ever heard.”

“I was thinking: I want to cross the finish line, I'm going to smile at
everybody, I'm going to strike a pose, and I want to find the first
stretcher I can,” Rigsby said.

The accomplishment was in the bank, and in the what-now stage that
follows, Rigsby and his friends are designing ways to draw interest.
Rigsby will be featured in the NBC broadcast of the event, to air Dec.
1. In the meantime, he said, there is work to be done in positioning
Rigsby, behind his foundation, as a spokesman for physically challenged
competitors and the redefining of limits.

When able, Rigsby said he will resume training and plot a schedule of
events in 2008.

“There is no beer and chicken wings in my future,” he said.

“The legacy of Scott is not whether he does another Ironman or 500
more,” said Mike Lenhart, Rigsby's training partner and founder of
another organization like his, Getting2Tri. “[His legacy] is if there
are a dozen or so other physically challenged individuals who do a 5K
run or do an international distance triathlon or even an Ironman, and
say the reason they did this is because they saw Scott Rigsby do it.”

What's your excuse? What's mine?

This is also the point of legacy. Will others know they can do it because they watch us?

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2 thoughts on “If my friend Scott, a double amputee can run an ironman, what’s your excuse

  1. I find this kind of thing offensive, I am very happy for Scott and other like him. But there is no way to correlate this with some other disabilities.

    “My escuse” I wonder if Scott was ever invalidated, by his Doctor, Psychologist, or Rehabilition Counselor? Did anyone ever assume Scott was mentally Ill, becase his illness wasn’t obvious or apparent? Was Scott ever denied treatment or rehabilition, because someone in a position to help him decided it was all in his head? Does Scott have to coninously educate people on his limitations, because they don’t understand, and most likely will never bother to, because they have you all figured out, or they think you are just lazy or antisocial.
    I wonder if any of Scotts Friends, Family, or health care providers, accused him of making it up for attention, called him a drug addict, or got angry with him for not participating in something? Has Scott been fired, because he looks normal, so he must be stupid or mentally ill?
    I would gladly lose a limb, in trade for freedom from pain, and the stupid comments I get, when I try to work or go to school. This is the kind of invalidating response so many ignorant, and uncaring people use to invalidate some of us as people. Look! He is missing two legs, and he is still running a Marathon! All I have are some damaged discs, nerve damage, and chronic pain. I don’t need a wheel chair, I don’t need a cane right now, I have all of my limbs, Gee what is my excuse.
    Maybe it is ignorant people, maybe it is the pain I experience every day. Maybe it is because my condition was ignored and I had no Insurance, so a fairly simple back surgery became a life sentence of pain, because it wasn’t treated proptly.
    More power to Scott, it is wonderful we have the technology to help him, a young strong man run a marathon, or move around without assistance. I wish I could trade places with him, but unfortunately, even if they cut off my legs, I will still have chronic pain.

  2. @anonymous

    Knowing Scott as I do, he wouldn’t consider anyone to be “happy” for him. If he had it his way he’d have both of his legs. He lives in pain and has blisters on his knees most of the time.

    He lived in constant pain for so many years and even now, he struggles. So, no, I don’t think that he’s “happy” for his condition.

    However, he has decided to make the best of his pain and struggle. He has decided that he can do what he can. He has gotten off of the drugs that dulled his mind and moved forward with his live and reclaimed it and for that reason he is inspirational to me.

    Have you listened to Scott’s appearance on edtechtalk where he talks about such things as you discuss –

    http://edtechtalk.com/taxonomy/term/990

    I think he’s been there but I know I haven’t. I’m sorry for your constant pain. And you’re right, people who haven’t experienced it cannot really understand just as a person who has never had a child cannot understand that either.

    Best wishes and I hope you’ll listen to the podcast with scott.

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