When he crossed the finish line in Phoenix at the end of his recent two-week, 334-mile Run 4 Life across Arizona, Goodyear resident Jimmy Scroggins collapsed into his wife’s arms before catching his breath and delivering a message to the assembled crowd — the same message he has dedicated his life to spreading to youngsters around the world.
Mr. Scroggins lives by three words — “Just Keep Pushing” — and in the middle of a tumultuous year, in the height of the Arizona summer, he put his life on the line to embody those words.
“Regardless of what barriers or the hardships that you faced in the past, I don’t care, and it doesn’t really matter because the real world doesn’t care,” Mr. Scroggins said. “You simply have to be willing to put left foot in front of right foot. That’s exactly what I sought out to do.”
Jimmy’s Fight 4Life
Mr. Scroggins was born and raised in south Phoenix. As a child, he struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide. When he was 13, his mother was murdered.
“It added to all the turmoil that I was already experiencing, and it just absolutely broke me,” he said. “My dad was always around. He’s a phenomenal individual. And my grandmother was also around. But time didn’t allow them to always be there and guide me the way that they probably would have wanted to.”
Never one to allow his circumstances to define him, Mr. Scroggins took a path that many kids in his situation would not have taken. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and play college basketball before serving in the U.S. Army. He currently serves in the Arizona National Guard.
“I definitely didn’t want to go to prison to realize that wasn’t a place that I wanted to hang out in, and I definitely didn’t want to join a gang to realize that those weren’t the group of guys that I wanted to spend my days with. So, I just kind of took all of the hardships that I was experiencing at that time and allowed them to help me to grow and evolve into the individual that I am today,” he said.
“I told myself that, one day when I was old enough and I was capable enough, I would do my best to go back and be that pillar of hope for the young kid that I used to be, just sitting in a classroom looking and waiting for someone to render me some help.”
In 2016, Mr. Scroggins created the 4Life Foundation, an organization that encourages and motivates young people dealing with adversity. He has spoken to young people around the country and the world. His organization has hosted holiday events and young men’s retreats. His current project, 4Life University, will teach inner-city kids how to manage and invest their money.
“We want to be that pillar between success and the community, and then just really meeting a lot of young people where they are — not putting too much pressure on people; just giving them the opportunity to just grow and evolve,” he said.
Mr. Scroggins’ Just Keep Pushing motto is posted everywhere, including on his truck and the walls of the home he shares with his wife, Virginia, in Goodyear.
“That ‘Just Keep Pushing 4 Life’ concept, anybody can abide by, anybody can live by,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you come from poverty or whether you’re a Fortune 500 owner. We just really work to empower young people in any way, really.”
The big idea
With 2020 being a difficult year in so many respects — including the fact that Mr. Scroggins’ speaking engagements had been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic — he wanted to do something extraordinary to inspire youngsters.
“With all the craziness that’s going on, I set out to do something just as crazy,” he said. “I had to meet the craziness that 2020 has brought on with something crazy also to counteract the negativity. “
Early in the summer, Mr. Scroggins went to his wife and told her of his big idea.
“I told her, ‘Hey, I think I’m gonna run across the state of Arizona right now. It can’t wait until December, it can’t wait until next year. It has to be right now,’” he said.
Knowing Mr. Scroggins as she does, Mrs. Scroggins, a Saskatchewan native and former volleyball player, wasn’t stunned by the news.
“Honestly, it didn’t even surprise me, because he’s come to me with a lot of crazy ideas,” she said. “And I thought, ‘You know what? This actually might be something positive for 2020.’”
Both are fitness enthusiasts, but Mr. Scroggins admitted he wasn’t in the kind of shape he should have been when he drew up his plan to run 334 miles in 13 days across the state.
“I trained a little bit, but nowhere near did I do what I should have been doing in order to complete something like that,” he said.
When preparing for his run, Mr. Scroggins ran 15 miles in Goodyear before almost passing out.
“I’m sitting on the basketball court, I phoned my wife and I’m like, ‘Hey, I need you to come pick me up because I don’t know what’s going on,’” he said. “My wife looked at me and said, ‘Well, it’s about a week and a half out. What are you gonna do? Because you just did 15 miles in one day, and you told the news that you were gonna do 30 miles a day.’
“And I told her, ‘No, it’s going to be OK. My body will adapt and I’ll be OK. My mind will take over.’ And that’s exactly what happened.’”
‘The hardest thing I have ever done’
With his wife following closely behind in their truck, Mr. Scroggins began his run throughout the state in mid-August. Both broadcast live streams of his run on Facebook, often gaining more than 100 viewers at a time.
“It was absolutely the hardest thing that I have ever done in my entire life,” Mr. Scroggins said. “It was hot. I was tired. There were days when I honestly didn’t think that I was gonna even make it.
“Running down the highway and semitrucks are passing me on my left at 85 miles an hour, and every time they come by, I’m shaking a little bit from the wind, and then all of a sudden the sun starts to go down and the trees are shaking on the right side of me, and I’m not sure what’s coming out of the bushes ... and all the while I’m cramping up.”
Mrs. Scroggins, who has been active in Jimmy’s 4Life campaign, was his biggest fan and motivator.
“My job was to refill his Camelbak, make sure that he was good,” she said. “It was a 13-day adventure but it was really cool to be a part of. There definitely are kids that need his help, need his message and need him as a positive influence in their life.”
At those times when all he wanted to do was collapse on the side of the road, Mr. Scroggins remembered why he set out on the journey in the first place. Watch highlights of the fun here:
“I knew I had to just keep moving forward, because at this point, I had kids from all around the world tuning in to these live feeds, and they were gaining hope and they were gaining momentum to just continue to do whatever it is that they sought out to do at the time,” he said.
With dozens of fans awaiting his arrival, Mr. Scroggins completed his journey in Phoenix on Saturday, Aug. 29. Cheers erupted as he crossed the finish line, and he and Mrs. Scroggins shared an emotional embrace.
Mr. Scroggins’ race was complete, but he knew that, for those youngsters watching, it was just the beginning.
“I directly just want these young kids to know that it’s not the end. It’s not the end for you,” he said. “We’ve all dealt with hard situations. I have dealt with countless, countless hardships and pain and turmoil. But with the right attitude and the right mindset, we can get over anything.
“I don’t even want these kids to remember my name; I just want them to remember the message. And the message is to Just Keep Pushing. No matter what, no matter what’s going on, no matter who your mom is or who your dad is, no matter what your political affiliation is, no matter who you like or who doesn’t like you — none of it really matters at the end of the day. Just keep showing up, keep putting left foot in front of right foot, and Just Keep Pushing.”
Editor’s note: Shane Dale is a digital journalist with the city of Goodyear.