Robert Pope is not Forrest Gump. He’s not from Greenbow, Alabama (mostly because it doesn’t actually exist), he didn’t play college football for Alabama, he didn’t (unintentionally) start the Watergate scandal, and he definitely didn’t invent the smiley face. But, he like the fictional character from the 1994 film (and book) of the same name, is a “running fool.”
For months, the man’s been reenacting the famous scene where Gump runs across America because he, “just felt like running.”
Pope “must have drank about fifteen Dr. Peppers” while he was thinking this up because the 38 year-old from Liverpool, England-born has spent the last seven months running across the United States from coast to coast. Himself, a fan of the Academy Award-winning film, Pope has already traversed over 5,400 miles.
He’s calling the run, “Going The Distance” and it began back on September 15th in Mobile, Alabama. Within the first 72 days, Pope had already jogged to California before turning around at the Santa Monica Pier (just like in the movie). After that, he made stops in Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington D.C. while running up to 50 miles every day.
When he began his journey, he was clean-shaven and had just gotten a close-crop haircut resembling Tom Hanks’ character’s iconic look. All you need to do is take a look at his Instagram and you’ll see the transformation (just like Gump himself) Pope has made in the seven month’s since his journey began. After those many months of jogging, he now has long, curly hair and an epic beard even Lieutenant Dan would admire.
And he’s not doing it just for something to do, like Gump did in the movie. Pope’s using his (very long) jog to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund as well as Peace Direct. As silly as the concept seems, the run is raising money for charities he believes in.
“I started planning to do it for charity, and then I said, ‘How do you do that to make it stand out from the crowd?,’” he told the Boston Globe. “Then the cogs started turning.”
He decided that to really get people to pay attention, he wouldn’t run it as himself. If he did that, he would just be another long-distance runner nobody really paid much attention to. If he was going to complete the route run by Forrest Gump, he would do it dressed as the loveable character.
Pope and his girlfriend traveled from England to the US — where he immediately bought a “Bubba Gump” hat and started running. He’s been going for seven months now.
Pope’s next stop — after completing the Boston Marathon — is the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine. This is the spot in the film where Gump reached the Atlantic ocean before turning back around and heading in the other direction. And this is precisely what Pope intends to do.
Even though he enjoys the whole film — from Gump shedding his leg braces to becoming a world champion ping pong player — the running scene is Pope’s favorite by far. “The running video — you can check it out on YouTube — I have seen that about 50 times.”
You can follow his journey on his Instagram account. Or, if you think you’re up for it, you can run alongside him.
“Anyone who wants join in and follow is welcome to come do it with me,” he said. “Forrest had people running with him, didn’t he?”