Before she handed away in 2002, Rob Pope’s mom, Cathy, requested him to promise her one factor: Do one factor in his life that may make a distinction.
For him, that meant one thing nobody else had ever carried out earlier than: “There have been solely a few hundred those that had run throughout America, however no person had carried out the Forrest Gump run. It was a little bit of a lightbulb second.”
In late 2016, the 44-year-old from Liverpool, England, started his quest to run the well-known route taken by the lead character, performed by Tom Hanks, within the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.”
He writes about it within the ebook, “Becoming Forrest – One Man’s Epic Run Across America” (Harper North), out March 7 in paperback.
The journey took Pope by way of 43 states over 422 days as he crisscrossed the nation 4 occasions, masking a whole of 15,621 miles — or 4 occasions the size of the Amazon river.
He additionally went by way of 33 pairs of trainers.
A veterinarian by commerce and an skilled marathon runner, Pope started the primary leg of his journey in Mobile, Ala., in September 2016, in a bid to elevate cash for the World Wide For Nature (WWF) and Peace Direct.
He wearing lookalike variations of the well-known plaid shirt, chinos and cap worn by Gump — and, just like the character, began out clean-shaven however ended up with a beard each bit as unkempt because the eponymous hero’s.
Inevitably, there have been as many twists and turns as a Hollywood script.
Just a few weeks into the run, Pope tore the quadricep muscle in his left leg. He had been averaging 35-40 miles a day. By the time he reached Memphis, Tennessee, he had slowed to a crawl.
“Yes, I used to be strolling in Memphis,” Pope joked.
He additionally encountered the whole lot that Mother Nature might throw at him, together with blizzards and forest fires. In Alabama, there have been temperatures in extra of 100 levels. “I used to be altering my shirt possibly 4 or 5 occasions a day,” he recalled. “I’d wring my shirt out and there could be half a pint of sweat dripping out.”
And then there was the snow in Death Valley. “That was mad,” Pope stated. “It’s the most well liked place on the planet and there I used to be operating by way of it with snow falling throughout.”
There have been moose in Idaho, bears in Montana’s Glacier National Park and dolphins in South Carolina. In Oregon, in the meantime, Pope took half in a 10km race and received, turning into the state champion. At the Boston Marathon, which he additionally ran in character, he was greeted by cheers of “Run, Forrest Run!” — and, maybe due to the beard, “Go, Jesus!”
Someone within the crowd even handed him a beer as he approached the 11-mile mark.
“As an skilled runner, I do know it’s not likely the perfect hydration technique however I drank it anyway,” stated Pope. “And it was a Bud Light so it was extra like an isotonic sports activities drink actually.”
From horn-honkers to well-wishers, from couch-surfing hosts to donut donations, Pope was shocked by the goodwill he encountered alongside the way in which.
“If you consider social media, then the United States is simply this massively polarized nation the place you’re both on one aspect or the opposite,” he stated. “I didn’t discover that basically. I simply discovered folks, regular folks, who have been and fascinating and simply wished to assist and, effectively, be human.
“It’s like I write: There is simply an excessive amount of kindness in America to match into a single ebook.”
In March 2018, Pope paused his run on the Twin Arrows Trading Post in Arizona to return to England, the place his girlfriend, Nadine, was about to give delivery to their daughter, Bee.
While residence, he nonetheless discovered time to squeeze in three extra marathons, together with one in London the place broke the Guinness World Record for the quickest marathon by a individual wearing a movie costume, clocking 2 hours 36 minutes and 28 seconds.
It was beforehand held by a man who had dressed as Elsa from “Frozen.“
Pope then jetted again to the US to full the fifth and remaining leg of his run, from Beaufort, South Carolina, to Monument Valley, Utah, along with his fiancée and child daughter cheering him on.
They have been there, too, when he lastly reached the top of his journey.
Pope, sporting a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. hat identical to Gump, dropped to one knee — “partly out tiredness however largely out of custom” — and requested Nadine to marry him. She stated sure.
To this day, Pope hasn’t heard from Tom Hanks regardless of a number of makes an attempt to make contact.
He’s nonetheless acquired the beard immediately, though it’s a little extra underneath management than it was. “My spouse likes it however solely when it doesn’t transcend a sure size,” Pope stated. “She’ll say issues like, ‘It’s gone a bit Texas’ now or ‘I most well-liked it prefer it was when it was Nevada.’”