Patton High senior Finn Rigsbee was prepared to run his first marathon this past weekend before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
So Rigsbee instead had to get creative.
After his senior season of cross country ended in the fall, Rigsbee decided to answer the itch he’d had for some time to run a marathon, and in late November, signed up for the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate.
But about two weeks ago — 10 days before the race, which also includes a half-marathon portion — Rigsbee learned the event had been canceled.
“I figured I couldn’t waste all the training I’d been doing,” he said. “I was kind of disappointed, and my mom (Traci) said ‘let’s see what happens.’ About two or three days passed, and we got an idea and called a couple people.”
The idea was for Rigsbee to head to his primary training spot of the past few months, the 13-plus mile long Thermal Belt Rail Trail in Rutherford County, to stage his own marathon: the first annual “Finn Rigsbee Marathon.”
“My dad (Keith) and a couple friends helped me decide on the route,” Rigsbee said. “It seemed like a good idea and a good spot. We marked 13.1 miles out from my starting spot, and I went down and back. It was a pretty flat 26 miles, and we figured I’d be pretty uninterrupted … I had used the trail for the majority of my longer runs going 20 or 22 miles at a time in the lead-up to the race.”
Rigsbee said his training consisted of running 50 to 60 miles per week, which he squeezed in around school work and during a senior basketball season in which he earned second straight all-conference and all-county honors after he averaged 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists as Patton won 20 games overall for a second time ever and won a state playoff game for the third straight season.
Several PHS families came to support Rigsbee: the LeCroys, Breedloves, Collins and Jones families. Sara LeCroy is PHS principal. Rigsbee’s girlfriend, Annaleigh Breedlove, is also a senior at Patton and rode her bike as Rigsbee ran the course. Chris Collins is PHS track and cross country coach, and Vance Jones runs with Rigsbee at PHS.
All maintained appropriate social distances during the event, Traci said.
“We are grabbing joy where we can in these crazy times,” she said. “He loved it, and friends and family cheered him on.”
Rigsbee, who will attend the University of Virginia in the fall and hopes to major in environmental science, said the crowd drove from one spot to the next at the number of parking lots that are along the trail.
“It was definitely a memorable first marathon,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
Paul Schenkel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8950.