How one Brit is running over 15,000 miles across the US

What’s your run all about?

Initially it was just going to be a straight trans-America run but the Forrest Gump idea came about as a way to make the trip resonate with people.  A lot of people aren’t interested in running, but they are interested in this. I’m raising funds and awareness for Peace Direct and the World Wildlife Fund.

Running pedigree

An accomplished runner with a marathon PB of 2.27.13. ‘I lived in Australia for a few years and in 2015, won the Australian marathon championships.’

The itinerary

Rob set off on September 15th 2016. He ran from Mobile, Alabama to Santa Monica Pier, LA – and is making his way back across the country to Port Marshall Point lighthouse in Maine (where Gump concluded his run). He’s then planning to return to the west coast, cross the Rockies and finish in Utah. ‘By the time I finish, around mid-March 2018, I plan to have run 15,248 miles, widely cited as the distance Gump ran in the film.’

Miles covered so far

5700 (Rob was days away from Maine when RW spoke to him).

Average/Longest daily distance

34/54 miles.

Any entourage?

‘For the first leg, between Alabama and Santa Monica, my girlfriend Nadine was my support crew, driving an RV. But she had to return to the UK because of visa issues so I’m now solo apart from my trusty trailer, PramSolo. I’ve been amazed at the kindness of people – when they hear what I’m doing they’ll offer to sort out a hotel or invite me to stay.’ 

What have been some of your trip highlights?

Reaching the sea in Santa Monica, LA. I’d fulfilled my athletic ambition – but I decided to carry on.

A stray dog ran with me for four miles in a place called New Hope in Arkansas. I named her Hope and got her to a vets, where we had her vaccinated and chipped. She’s now in a foster home.

I ran Boston marathon in 2.58.46 dressed as Gump. The crowd response was incredible – far better than having your name on your t-shirt!

And the not-so-good experiences…?

I knocked on someone’s door to ask if I could camp there overnight. The guy came to the door wielding a 10-inch carving knife.

Any wildlife encounters?

I’ve seen coyotes, prairie dogs, deer and armadillos. Luckily the only alligator I saw was a dead one. In Texas, I got followed by circling vultures – they cast huge shadows. I live in terror of bears – I think this trip will end with me being eaten in Montana!

Favourite place

The Joshua Tree National Park  was my favourite place to run through. I’m a big U2 fan.

Favourite on-the-run snack

I’m a bit of a doughnut monster. My diet is pretty lousy to be honest – I’m just trying to keep it as cheap and as quick as possible. I also drink the odd Dr Pepper, like Forrest.

Any injuries?

I’ve been through the blister stage. Four hundred miles in, I got tendinitis in my tibialis anterior, then in my Achilles. Oh, and then I tore my quad. I also stepped on a mesquite thorn, which went through my shoe and into my foot.

The last word

‘I admit running across America whilst growing a humongous beard does seem a little ridiculous, but if you have a dream, do it. Try not to leave those regrets on the peg.’

Robert Pope isn’t the only Brit currently following in the footsteps of Forrest Gump’s fictitious trans-American journey. Read Jim Plunkett Cole’s story here.