A British man is on the verge of becoming the first person ever to run the route taken by Forrest Gump in the 1994 Tom Hanks film.
Rob Pope, 39, from Liverpool, set off from Mobile, Alabama, in September 2016 just like the fictional character and has been running ever since.
In that time he has covered an incredible 15,138 miles, travelling from west to east coast and back again and braving all the elements along the way.
Rob Pope, 39, from Liverpool, has spent two years running the equivalent of 590 marathons in order to recreate the route taken by Forrest Gump in the film
In the 1994 film, Forrest completes his run after being left heartbroken by his love, Jenny. For Rob, it was the words of his late mother that inspired him. She once told him: ‘Do one thing in life that makes a difference’
While Pope had completed marathons before undertaking this task, he did not specifically train for the mammoth undertaking.
‘You didn’t see Forrest doing a Rocky montage in the scenes building up to his run – he just put on his shoes and went,’ Pope said. ‘I figured I’d do the same.’
And just like Forrest, who took his motto ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ from his mumma, Pope revealed it was the words of his own later mother that inspired him.
‘My mum, who unfortunately isn’t around anymore, was very aware of our impact on the word and urged me to “do one thing in life that makes a difference”,’ he said.
‘I hoped that this run would be an opportunity to do just that – I’m sure she would be very proud.
‘My girlfriend, Nadine, friends and family have been hugely supportive – I think they’ve been half expecting me to do something crazy like this for a while.’
Rob began his run in the plaid shirt and chinos made famous by Tom Hanks, but later changed for a bushy beard and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co hat, just like Forrest
The run began in Mobile, Alabama, in September 2016 and has taken Rob from west to east coast and back again. He is now just 200 miles short of the finish line
Rob began his run in Forrest’s iconic plaid shirt and chino shorts but has since ditched that for a bushy beard and a ‘Bubba-Gump’ hat – much like Forrest’s transformation in the film.
Averaging a staggering 40 miles a day, Rob has battled through blistering heat, soaking rain and relentless snow, raising $28,000 for the World Wildlife Foundation and Peace Direct as he went.
Despite suffering a series of major injuries, Rob has run 15,348 miles in just 409 days, ticking off a number of landmarks from the film along the way – including the Marshall Point Lighthouse, in St. George, Maine.
The route has taken Rob past many landmarks from the film, including the Marshall Point Lighthouse, in St. George, Maine
With just 200 more miles before he crosses the finish line, Rob admits the journey has been an exhausting one, both physically and emotionally, but cheers of ‘Run, Forrest, Run’ have often helped carry him through.
The now 39-year-old veterinarian, said: ‘I first had the idea to run across America 15 years ago. I thought it would be an incredible way to see a fascinating and beautiful country.
‘I’d had a number of half-hearted attempts trying to put a run together, but after watching Forrest Gump one night, I had a light-bulb moment.’
Rob now admits he should have done more training prior to arriving in the US, as a series of nasty injuries nearly brought his endeavour to a halt.
From an inflamed Achilles to a quadriceps tear, the Liverpudlian has had to grimace through the pain, while combatting the psychological toll of exhaustion.
Rob said: ‘I didn’t do any training specifically for the run. I wish I had done, and maintained more core work.
‘The journey has been incredibly difficult – I’ve had a few major injuries, and even food poisoning, too.
‘After my first injury – anterior tibial tendinitis – only 400 miles in, I had a breakdown in a gas station in front of a poor attendant – I’d put too much into everything to become a failure.
‘I had to change my kit five times a day due to the humidity in the deep south, where temperatures reached over 40C.
During his run, Rob has battled through 40C heat and sweltering humidity in the south, to -18C temperatures on the east coast
Rob said he had been planning to run across America for 15 years, but decided to recreate Forrest’s route while watching the film one evening
Having completed more than 15,000 miles Rob has taken a temporary hiatus in order to travel back to the UK and see girlfriend Nadine give birth
‘And in the colder states, I was wearing five layers of clothes to keep warm in -18C temperatures – even my beard froze.
‘The enormity of it all, the repetition and loneliness have been mentally very tough.
‘Fortunately though, I was only ever down for short periods, even if illness or injury persisted longer than that.
‘As a generally very positive person, I had a strong focus – quitting was never going to be an option.’
Pausing his run at the Twin Arrows Trading Post, in Arizona, Rob has now flown back to the U.K to be with his girlfriend of seven-years, Nadine, to witness the birth of his daughter – who he insists will not be named Jenny.
After the birth, which is scheduled for March 27, Nadine, Rob and their first-born will be flying back to the US, aiming to see the final 200 miles through together.
Hoping to inspire others with the spirit of Forrest, Rob said: ‘I wanted to finish this journey as a family, so I’ve flown back to be with Nadine for our baby’s birth.
Rod said he has contacted Tom Hanks about his run, sending him a postcard from Maine, but he has not heard back from the actor
Rob pictured competing in a marathon before undertaking his epic run across America
‘So far I’ve surpassed the supposed number of miles Forrest achieved – 15,248, by about a hundred or so. By the end I’d have run nearly 15,600.
‘I think the film – and specifically the character of Forrest – is a beautiful tale of life and how we should treat one another.
‘Forrest didn’t judge anyone, not on the colour of their skin, background, intelligence or anything else.
‘If everyone could be a bit more like Forrest, the world would be a better place.
‘I’m running for WWF and Peace Direct, raising £20,000 for them so far, but I hope to continue fundraising until I reach a million.
‘This is my attempt to make a difference, just as my mum would’ve wanted.
Rob, who is a huge fan of Tom Hanks, added: ‘I haven’t heard from Tom yet, but I have sent him a postcard of the Port Clyde Lighthouse, when I completed my second crossing.
‘He’s an absolute hero of mine, so I’d love to hear from him.
‘I’d love him to finish the final mile with me – wouldn’t that be something?’