Rob Pope completed a punishing ‘ultra-marathon’ dressed as Forrest Gump.
The 40-year-old donned little red shorts and the knee-high socks for his long-distance runs back in 2001, raising money and awareness for the World Wildlife Fund and Peace Direct along the way.
He has just completed the 156-mile race – otherwise known as ‘the hardest race in the world’ – and the secret to his success is pork scratchings.
The Liverpool vet has smashed his hardest challenge yet the six-day Marathon Des Sables, known as the toughest footrace on the planet, despite fearing for his life during the contest.
The mammoth marathon, which began last week (April 7), all competitors were required to carry their own food and equipment to deal with the inhospitable desert conditions and 40-degree heat – which meant Rob found himself surviving on a mix of instant mashed potato, pork scratching and chili oil.
Rob, who previously ran 15,700 miles across the US in 2016 to recreate the route in the film, said: “I am currently unsure if I’d come back again as it was such a wonderful experience, I’m not sure I could match it – but never say never.
“After a six-hour coach journey, there was a day of technical checks designed to ensure you had at least 2,000 calories a day to eat, all the necessary kit that you need to survive for a week in the desert including sleeping mat and bag, a knife, emergency signalling kit, a compass, a snake venom extraction kit and a head-torch.
“My bag weighed 8kg before water and looked like I had a sofa in it. I had to have my first meal of MEGAMIX, a self-concocted mix of instant mash, pork scratching and chili oil, designed to give 1200 calories in 200g.
“If truth be told, it tasted great.” You’re fooling no one, mate.
“There is no real hierarchy in the desert – the Marathon Des Sables is do, or do not. The rule is finish or a least bust a gut trying.
“It was the hardest race I’ve ever done, but it’s a funny and unique one in that it’s as hard as you make it and hard in different ways,” said Rob.
“The cut-offs are such that most abilities and body shapes are able to complete it, as long as you’re prepared to dig deep and maybe skimp on personal hygiene a tad for a short while.” I have a feeling this would be a ‘0/10, would not go again’ situation.
Rob finished 14th overall out of more than 750 competitors with a time of 22 hours and 48 minutes – but is now delighted to be back at home in the UK with his fiance Nadine Strawbridge and daughter Bee.
He previously raised $48,000 for charity during his run across 43 states of the US, which took 422 days across 15,607 miles, before proposing to Nadine at the finish line.
Rob feared for his health at many points during the grueling challenge but never gave up.
Rob added: “At some points, I was coughing and my chest tightened – my heart rate shot up as I couldn’t get air into my lungs. One chap, Des, recognized the signs of an asthma-like attack and gave me two puffs on his inhaler.
“My chest loosened a bit but the coughing got worse and a blood clot jumped into my mouth – soon after a chunk of dry mucus and sand followed it.
“I genuinely began not to fear just for the race, but also for my life as I know how suddenly things can go wrong here, having seen people airlifted to hospital from the course.
“I had huge reasons to continue, with my charity goals, and as my previous entry in 2001 was cancelled due to a torn muscle. I had also made a promise to my new family that I would run them race for them and do them proud.”
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