In preparation for Scott Rigsby’s visit to South Bay Bible Church on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19, 2019, we are sharing our thoughts on his moving memoir, Unthinkable: The True Story About the First Double Amputee to Complete the World-Famous Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon.
Unthinkable is the true story of double amputee Ironman, Scott Rigsby. It follows his journey from his life-changing injury to the completion of the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon with no legs! However, unlike other motivational athletic memoirs, Rigsby’s memoir is heavily faith-based. Rigsby firmly believes this is not his story; this is God’s story with his role in it.
Throughout this book, readers get a real-life look at Scott’s challenges as someone who is physically challenged and a Christian. The severity of his trauma led to many of issues he had to address such as unbelievable pain, addiction to prescription drugs, traumatic brain injury, depression, and drunkenness. In this memoir, Rigsby does not hold back. He is upfront and forthcoming – identifying the thoughts we are often afraid to speak aloud.
To give you an introduction to Scott Rigsby and his incredible memoir Unthinkable, we are sharing our thoughts below, and I highly recommend readers purchase a copy of the actual book and read it in its entirety for their own enjoyment and edification.
The Incident That Shaped Scott’s Life
During the summer of Scott’s senior year of high school, he was involved in a car accident. As he was riding on the back of a pickup truck, he was side-swiped by an eighteen-wheeler. Scott was thrown from the vehicle and dragged by the lawn trailer in tow. It was in this accident that he lost his first leg. His second leg was also severely damaged in the accident, but the decision was made at the time to try to save it.
After months of therapy, Scott left the hospital and eventually started college. However, college did not come easy. In addition to losing one leg and the constant pain in his remaining leg and reconstructed foot, he suffered from a traumatic brain injury. To cope with the pain and loss, Scott turned to alcohol. However, it was during these trying college years that Scott found peace in Christ and learned to give God control.
Twelve years after the accident, Scott made the personal decision to have his other leg amputated. After struggling for years to deal with the issues from his reconstructed foot, depression, and prescription drug abuse, Scott knew he would feel better if he was able to live more fully and able to move more freely. With the reconstructed foot, Scott could not run or do much physically.
But, the double amputation did not solve Scott’s problems. Even after this procedure, Scott struggled with clinical depression and could not keep a job. The combination of his physical losses plus his traumatic brain injury left Scott struggling to understand his life’s purpose.
After hitting rock bottom and praying with his mom, Scott happened upon a magazine with a single amputee athlete featured. It was this image that stirred Scott and showed him what God had in store for him.
After training to do what had never been done before and finding support from around the world, Scott went on to complete the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon twenty-one years after his terrible accident.
What Makes Scott’s Story Unique
Sports stories are always great sources for motivation and inspiration, but Scott’s story goes beyond the average comeback story. He truly did the unthinkable. He overcame huge obstacles to achieve his goal. While you may think his goal was to complete the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon, you would be wrong. His goal was to complete the Ironman to encourage other “unthinkables.”
“We are ‘the Unthinkables,’ I thought with a smile. We were also Ironmen, along with all the other athletes that day who had been counted out for various reasons – too old, too fat, too slow, not athletic, disabled, broken – but had finished the race anyway. The world had told each of us in some way that we just didn’t measure up to its standards, but that day we proved the world wrong. We had each done something unthinkable” (pg. 239).
By competing in this prestigious Ironman competition, Scott has been able to speak truth and light into the lives of disabled and physically challenged individuals across the world, especially wounded soldiers. God is using Scott’s story to heal others.
Unlike other sports memoirs, Scott’s book gets to the heart of the matter. This is not just a story about a man who was in a horrific accident and went on to do something incredible. More importantly, it is a story about a man who came to faith in Jesus Christ and learned his only way to find purpose and peace is through following Him and serving others.
This memoir is Scott’s testimony. As you read it, you will come to understand it was not the accident that shaped Scott, but God and the people God surrounded Scott with throughout his journey. It was God’s undertaking in Scott’s life that led to his salvation and becoming an Ironman.
Why We are Encouraging You to Read Unthinkable
Scott Rigsby is a sought-after speaker but reading his book will give you a better understanding of the man who stands before us. Scott is a real person. He is genuine and honest. He does not hold back when others may. He is upfront about his sins and struggles. Also, he never tries to sugarcoat anything. What you get is the real stuff – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unthinkable! It’s quite refreshing.
A major part of Scott’s Christian testimony is relational – like most people’s. Scott details the many people who influenced him. He shares with readers about the friends who carried him when he was injured, the friends who let him live with them when he was out of a job and struggling with depression, and the friends who would pick him up when he’d fall during a race.
Scott’s book serves as a great reminder that the little things you do for someone else can make a big difference in their life. He names the various people who helped him train for the marathons and the many Ironman Triathlons he’s completed. He also speaks of all the people who helped him cross those challenging finish lines.
Scott reminds readers how throughout the Bible God used the weak things of the world to do mighty things that God purposed for our lives. Scott writes in the book: “It took me more than twenty years to understand the gift I have been given, but I do understand it now. Losing my legs led me to a life that’s more meaningful than anything I had planned to do when I still had them.”
Readers see this played out as they read how Scott speaks and ministers to others who have lost limbs and talks to their family members about what to expect.
Following is an interview written for this blog ahead of Scott’s visit to South Bay. I hope you enjoy the extra insights not in his book.
Scott Rigsby Interview
What has happened in your life over the last ten years since the book was published?
There’s an opportunity for a second book. The things that have happened since are even more unthinkable than the first book. There has been a healing of relationships, which I will share more about when I visit you guys in May.
Most people think the story is about this guy who had this really awful accident, and he did some incredible athletic achievement, but that’s not really it. It’s very much a Biblical story. God creates this background, and then He puts people in the main characters’ lives. Then, they accomplish this goal. Ultimately, God’s goal is for us to have a relationship with Him and be at peace with Him. But, it’s also to be at peace with our fellow man.
After my family read the book and heard my testimony, it healed some relationships. There was a relationship I had to bury (figuratively speaking) for my peace of mind because it was using up so much of my energy right around the time the book was being published. But God restored that relationship and, for me, that is the best thing that came from the book.
Over the past ten years, I started a foundation - the Scott Rigsby Foundation. With just a handful of volunteers, we’ve raised between $750,000 and a million dollars for military families and people with disabilities. I’ve also been able to speak all across the country to corporations, military bases, and college athletes. I’ve done a Brawny commercial, a Holiday Inn commercial, and a Mercedes Benz commercial. Also, I was almost to the finish line when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon.
Speaking of the Boston Marathon bombing, I watched a brief interview you did with Anderson Cooper. Can you tell us more about that?
I’ve run the Boston Marathon six times. After the bombing, I was contacted by CNN because they wanted to know what these families were going to go through. There were over 200 people injured with 16 eventual amputees from that one terror attack. Anderson Cooper just wanted to know what these families were going to go through and how you get through it.
The reality is we all have two things in common – pain and loss. We have to find a way to get beyond the pain and loss. And not just get beyond it but live beyond the pain and loss. Part of my sharing with the church is how you get through that pain and loss. How do you live a life of sustainability and resiliency leaving a legacy of service for others? We all have things happen to us, but we have to find a way to live an abundant life like the Bible says.
In the Cooper interview, you said your mission is to help rebuild families. How did you start to focus on families instead of individuals?
I had a traumatic brain injury when I had my accident. I had loss of mobility; I had loss of limbs, but all those things didn’t just happen to me. It happened to my family. It happened to my community. They were all impacted by my accident.
My inspiration was seeing so many soldiers coming back missing limbs, and I just wanted to do something to not only help them but also their families. If I could use my platform to speak to families, then I felt like I could help everybody. There’s a lot of soldiers out there who don’t get the help they need, and they end their lives like I almost did.
In the book you write, “I think it was God’s way of giving me a great conversation starter,” and that you believe your “life is part of a divine story.” How can others see the difficult things they face through the same lens?
In Revelation 12:11 it says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” Jesus’ blood takes care of our sin and our home in heaven once we accept His sacrificial gift. But we still have to live life, and part of that life is overcoming by the word of our testimony. When I’ve heard people’s testimonies, they encouraged me. Part of it is because you can identify with the person.
When I finished the Ironman, and my little website blew up with people asking me to tell my testimony, I had to frame that story. Hopefully, through my story, people will not only understand God better and see He is a loving father who wants to have a relationship with us, but people will also understand they can frame (or tell) their own story. The way I frame it is: “This isn’t really my story; it’s God’s story and my role in it.”
To gain more insight into Scott’s journey over the last ten years, check out these videos:
(((Instead of links, add the videos to the blog.)))
These are all things that happened post-book to give you a better perspective before you hear Scott speak at South Bay Bible Church on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19, 2019.
Scott, how do you encourage people when they feel like giving up?
I tell them to just take the next breath. And the next breath after that, and the next one after that. That’s how you stay alive.
Scott quoted Andy Stanley as saying, “When you don’t know what to do, do the next right thing.”