In 2001, at the age of 27, Tony Rigdon was living in his parents’ basement in Kirksville. He had been enrolled at the College of the Ozarks, but left with only 18 credits remaining to graduate. He landed a job working for Truman’s Information Technology Services and enrolled as a part-time student.
That same year he entered his first 5K run and managed to finish 3rd in his age group. Rigdon described the experience as the beginning of a lifestyle change. He began training with the triathlon and running club, and lost 45 pounds.
By 2006, Rigdon’s life had completely changed. He was two years removed from earning his degree in computer science from Truman, and was now a regular in area triathlons. He appeared to have everything in order until tragedy struck in April. While competing in a triathlon near Cape Girardeau, Rigdon was hit by a van during the bicycle portion of the race. He sustained broken bones in his face, hands and knee. If that was not enough, not long after being released from the hospital, Rigdon was rear-ended while driving, and when his head hit the steering wheel the wires holding his jaw together came undone, setting back his progress yet again.
“A lot of people would think that I’m accident prone, and maybe I am,” Rigdon said.
Throughout it all, he never let his injuries interfere with his life. He continued to train and completed a 5K a week after having his jaw wired shut.
“Fitness takes continual effort,” he said. “Relax and everything you’ve worked for could be lost.”
Since his accident, Rigdon has competed in numerous 5K runs and triathlons, and usually incorporates his own flair into each event. He has been known to race while wearing a cape, while dressed as Ronald McDonald and, on occasion, in only a Speedo. His philosophy in life is, “have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Rigdon encourages those around him to focus on what he calls the three fits: fit physically, fit financially and fit emotionally.
“Daily decisions can make a large impact in life,” he said. “If you are off in one area of your life, it can affect the others.”
In 2012, facing more than $17,000 in unsecured debt, Rigdon decided to get serious about getting fit financially. He enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” and in 19 weeks he was able to pull himself completely out of debt. He held himself accountable by posting his progress on Facebook. When he still had a little under $15,000 in debt remaining, he decided he would not cut his hair or shave his beard until he was debt free. He posted pictures of his progress and, in addition to selling several things he did not need, took donations to achieve his goal.
Currently, Rigdon lives in Columbia, Mo., and works as a home energy auditor for Chapman Heating and Air Conditioning. He hopes to continue to use his message of perseverance and accountability to inspire others. In March 2013, Rigdon returned to campus to share his story as part of the “Eat, Listen and Learn” series sponsored by the School of Health Sciences and Education.