Forrest Gump ran 5 times from coast to coast through the USA. It took him three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours. The big question is, is that humanly possible? Rob Pope decided there was just one way to find out and put on his running shoes, a pair of white Nike Cortez. Did he succeed? You can read it in Becoming Forrest.
‘That day, for no particular reason I decided to go for a run. So I ran to the end of the road and when I got there, I thought maybe I ran to the end of town and when I got there, I thought I might just run across Greenbow County. And I figured since I’d run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured since I’d gone this far I might just turn around and keep on going. And when I got to another ocean I figured since I’d gone this far I might as well just turn back and keep right on going.’
Forrest Gump; the ultra runner
Maybe it’s because I’m a runner, but I’ve always found the running scene of Forrest Gump one of the funniest. And seemingly I am not the only one, because it inspired Rob Pope to reconstruct it, and run across the United States. Five times, just like Forrest Gump.
And just like Forrest, Pope was inspired to do so, by the one he loved. Forrest had his mother, Bubba and Lieutenant Dan on his mind when he ran. For Pope it was his mother. ‘Perhaps the most fundamental source of inspiration for me was my momma, as Forrest would say. My mum, Cathy Pope, was a medical laboratory scientific officer and a hard-working, single mother. She was my rock and my best friend. … She was diagnosed with cancer. … While she was sick, she had made me promise one thing to her; ‘Do one thing in your life that makes a difference.’ That promise had stuck with me since then.’
Running for world peace
The biggest between Pope and Gump is dat Forrest ran ‘for no particular reason’. Or as he says in the movie, when asked if he is running for world peace, for the homeless, for women’s rights, or for the environment or for animals: ‘I just felt like running.’
Pope did make his crossings through the United States for the animals, the environment and peace: ‘As a keen animal lover, the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) has always had a place in my heart, and I decided to fundraise for them during the Forrest Gump run. I would also be running for Peace Direct, a charity dedicated to stopping war and building lasting peace in some of the world’s most fragile countries.’
Plus; he had one more reason: ‘A number of athletes had already made a single crossing, but as far as I knew, nobody had ever done five. People had written articles about whether it was even possible. I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to be the guy who tried.’
Staying close to the movie
It meant lots of lots of research for Pope and hours and hours watching and rewatching the same scenes to figure out where Forrest Gump was running, to mimic his crossings as perfectly as possible; ‘I spent endless hours poring over previous crossings and possible routes, studying the weather in different states at different times of the year, wondering whether I could actually hack it.’
To do that, it also meant getting their finances in order. Their, because Pope, a veterinarian, didn’t go alone, he brought his girlfriend Nadine along as support crew. ‘Nadine and I worked our butts off in the veterinary surgery, pooling together enough savings to keep us going for as long as possible.’
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If he succeeds, I leave to you to discover in Becoming Forrest. No spoiler alerts here. What I will tell you is that I was captured within a few pages. In no-time Pope’s book made it in my top 3 of running books. That is, until crossing three. After that, the struggle to get through the book, became as big as the struggle Pope had to financially make it and to make it without Nadine.
Okay, that’s a spoiler. No worry, the book has a happy ending for Pope and Nadine. I can tell you, because I did make it to the end. The reason I started to struggle with the book is that at some point all the new and exciting was gone and it became more of the same. A lot more.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. cap
Crossing one, crossing two you feel like you are there with them: with Pope, with Nadine, with Jenny, their campervan. Hack, even with Forrest Gump himself. Every day Pope is running, is an adventure; dogs running after him, big trucks passing by too close, blowing of his Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. cap, small and less small running injuries, money problems, crazy people with guns and biting bed bugs in cheap motels.
But at crossing 3 the book starts to become monotonous. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s hard to keep a journey of 15.248 miles (24.539 kilometers) interesting. I sometimes struggle to keep a story of a 50 kilometer run interesting. Yet, I do think it’s important to keep the reader entertained. In my case, I wasn’t anymore. I started to pick up other books and read them instead. But maybe you’re more patient than I am as a reader.
On the bright side, I did wanted to know if Pope made it or not, so I did pick up the book again. And no, I didn’t skip to the end. I read it all. More struggles, more bad weather, more roadkill, more donuts and more Dr. Pepper. But the struggle was worth it and Pope’s last words are words I will take with me: ‘Be more Forrest in your day-to-day-life’.
This is just my opinion. We all want something different from a book. I like people who dare to go on an adventure, and just like Rob Pope I like animals, care about our environment and want world peace. Buying the book, is supporting somebody who tried to make a difference for these worthy causes, no matter if the book is good or not.