Rob Pope, from Liverpool, is a 39-year-old veterinarian who has become the first person ever to recreate the iconic running scene from Forrest Gump, the 1994 Oscar-winning film.
Rob recently proposed to his long-term girlfriend as he crossed the finish line after spending 19-months running 15,607 miles across America.
Traveling from east to west twice over and back again, the man ran for a staggering 422 days, covering a distance, four times the length of the Amazon river.
Averaging an astonishing 40 miles a day, Rob fought against the changing climates of relentless snowfall, traitorous rain, and blistering heat, and was able to raise nearly £37,000 for his two chosen charities, Peace Direct and World Wildlife Foundation.
Rob started the epic journey that would see him travel the equivalent distance of around 590 marathons in Mobile, Alabama. He was then 38 – the same age as Tom Hanks when he portrayed the revered character.
After completing his astounding journey across 43 states on foot, the man admits he is ready to return back to normal life.
Rob said: ‘I’m unbelievably proud and still surprised to a degree that I actually made it. Sometimes the magnitude of it all hits me and I just stand there shaking my head, smiling.
‘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.
‘My mum, who unfortunately isn’t around anymore, was very aware of our impact on the word and always urged me to do one thing in life that makes a difference. 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. It meant everything to me to have Nadine and our newborn daughter, Bee, there at the finish line.
‘Nadine has been my rock, I couldn’t have done it without her – proposing in that moment felt right. I can’t wait to show baby Bee all of the photos in a few years’ time.’
Rob hopes to inspire other people with the spirit of Forrest. While talking about the film, Rob said: ‘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 color of their skin, background, intelligence or anything else. If everyone could be a bit more like Forrest, the world would be a better place. This is my attempt to make a difference, just as my mum would’ve wanted.
‘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.’
When asked if he plans to return to normal life, Rob said: ‘It hasn’t been hard to return back to my old life, I’m a bit weird like that. I’m a bit weird like that, but the beard is still there and the memories will last a lifetime.
‘The charities were my main motivation behind this, so I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get over the 100,000 mark. In the words of Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, don’t let all the running be in vain.’
Rob briefly paused his run at the Twin Arrows Trading Post, in Arizona, for flying back to the UK and witnessing the birth of his daughter. Rob said: ‘Seeing my daughter be born was even more motivation – having her and Nadine at the finish was a dream come true.’
He also ran in the London Marathon, breaking a world record by becoming the fastest ever runner to complete the 26.2-mile course in costume, with a time of 2 hours and 36 minutes.
When asked if he ever broke down during the journey or wanted to quit at all, Rob replied: ‘After my first injury – anterior tibial tendinitis – only 400 miles in, I had a break down in a gas station in front of a poor attendant – I’d put too much into everything to become a failure.
‘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.’
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