Meet the Brit devoting 3 years to running across the USA

What’s your run all about?

I aim to reach, educate and inspire a generation to choose a healthy active lifestyle. I want to visit as many schools as possible on a 20,000-mile run criss-crossing the United States with my ‘Talk and Run’ initiative. I have no desire to be Forrest Gump - emulating his run is simply my way of raising awareness and accessing schools in order to achieve this. But I want to keep going for as long as Gump did: three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours.

What happens at a ‘Talk and Run’?

It comprises a half-hour presentation of pictures and slides and stories of the nature and wildlife I’ve encountered over more than four years of running every day with my dog, Alfredo. I tell them about when a heron dropped a fish from the sky when we startled it; about a magnificent stag leaping over a river in front of us; about wild otters playing in a storm drain. I explain that the more you get out there, the more you’ll see and experience. The kids sit there with their mouths open. Then we go outside and have a run together.

The itinerary

Jim set off on 1st October 2016 and aims to cover 20,000 miles and visit every US state as part of the JimGump project. So far he’s run in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Washington DC.

Running pedigree

Since January 2013, Jim has run at least 10km every single day. In 2015 he completed a triathlon every single day, adding a 750m swim and 20k bike ride to the obligatory 10km run. He’s also a sub-three marathoner.

Miles covered so far

4250 miles in exactly 200 days.

Average/longest daily distance

21.2 miles/41 miles. ‘My daily self-imposed minimum is 17 miles per day as that is what Forrest Gump is estimated to have achieved on his epic run. My self-imposed rule is that I’m not ‘allowed’ to miss a single day of the 17-mile minimum for the 1,172 days that I’ve calculated Forrest would have run for.

Any entourage?

Jim is travelling solo. ‘I have Asperger’s syndrome and one of the things about that is that I don’t get lonely.’

What have been some of your trip highlights?

A serving US solider at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs liked my story so much he sang the American national anthem to me. It was one of the most incredible gestures I’ve received.

Being told by the kids and teachers that my visit was ‘the best visit they had ever had.’ At one school a teacher said to me about Talk and Run ‘it works, because you make everyone feel like a champion.’

And the not-so-good moments…?

Running 36 miles over the Texas hills in bitingly cold conditions and inappropriate kit with my hands stuffed down my shorts. And being chased by wild pigs in Louisiana.

Have you ever considered giving up?

Yes, but due to lack of funding, not because of the physical demand. The lack of funding suggests people aren’t that interested in what I’m trying to do, which makes me feel like stopping sometimes. But the JimGump project is the best thing I’ve ever done. If and when I return to the UK I will continue to run the 17-miles-a-day minimum, while working and visiting schools as I go. There are 25,000 elementary schools in the US and 10,000 in the UK. So I have much work to do.

The things I miss most about home are, obviously my 22-year old daughter Hannah, but also a decent Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding and, most of all, Bisto gravy!

Favourite place you’ve run on the trip?

The remote Louisiana outback as the sun was going down.

Favourite on the run fuel?

A large decaff latte when it’s cold and an Oreo McFlurry when it’s hot.

Any injuries?

Shin splints, swollen knees, plantar fasciitis. ‘The body has amazing powers of recovery, I’ve found.’

The last word

My journey isn’t really about a big run. It’s about people. I’ve been told I have many people following my journey back home. Someone described it as ‘like a warm little light moving slowly across the vastness of America. I liked that description.’

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