He doesn’t own a vast shrimping enterprise created in memory of his very best, good friend. He has never stood before President John F. Kennedy and unapologetically proclaimed, “I gotta pee.” And Robert Pope, for all that he’s accomplished recently, has certainly never earned accolades as a star football player who could soar down a college field.
But one thing the Liverpool, England, native does have in common with the character that Tom Hanks played in the award-winning film “Forrest Gump,” is a diehard love of running — lots of runn-iiiiiiing.
For the last seven months, Pope, 38, has been jogging across America, tracing the route that Gump traveled in the 1994 film. So far, he’s covered roughly 5,430 miles, he says.
On Monday, Pope will make a pit stop in Massachusetts, briefly interrupting his epic project to take part in the 121st Boston Marathon.
After crossing the finish line — and after a little rest — Pope will continue his long trek, heading to the Marshall Point Lighthouse, in Port Clyde, Maine, one of the many landmarks featured in the movie.
“I’ve wanted to run across America for a long time,” said Pope, taking a break from his daily routine Thursday. “And it’s definitely one of my favorite films. I’ve probably seen it about 10 times. The running video — you can check it out on YouTube — I have seen that about 50 times.”
Since many people have run — or even walked — from one side of the United States to the other, Pope, who is raising money for both the World Wildlife Fund and Peace Direct, wanted to give his own adventure a bit of an edge.
“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 said. “Then the cogs started turning.”
Following months of research, planning, and after politely handing in his resignation as a veterinarian back home, Pope traveled to the United States with his girlfriend.
He purchased a “Bubba Gump” shrimp hat, a checkered shirt, and pleated khaki pants, and off he went.
The charitable run, called “Going The Distance,” began on Sept. 15, 2016, in Mobile, Ala. (Gump’s starting point was Greenbow, Ala. But because it’s a fictitious place, Pope had to improvise.)
Within 72 days, Pope had made it all the way to California, he said, where he re-created the scene showing Gump on the Santa Monica Pier.
From there, he turned around, stopping in Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., packing in roughly 50 miles each running day.
At the start, Pope slept in a camper (named “Jenny”) that he had rented with his girlfriend, who has since returned to England.
These days, Pope pushes his belongings in a small carriage in front of him, and sleeps wherever he can.
“I’ve been to some restaurants, and when people have found out what I’m doing they say, ‘We will put you up in a hotel,’ and have been really kind,” he said. “The generosity of strangers has been very helpful.”
To stay fueled, he consumes around 6,000 calories per day, noshing on quick eats from fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
“It would be a nutritionist’s nightmare,” he said. “I do have protein shakes and try and drink a lot of milk, but there’s no real science for the nutrition.”
Pope, who is blogging about the experience, recently arrived on the East Coast, in Maryland. He headed to New Jersey last week, then took a bus up to Boston for the Marathon.
He said that he pulled a muscle while in Arkansas, forcing him to slow his pace and save his energy for race day.
But he plans to go back to New Jersey after the Marathon and reset, before traveling again through Boston along the Marathon route, and up to Maine in the coming weeks, ensuring that he doesn’t cheat.
“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?”
Aside from the route, there are other similarities between Pope’s trip and the movie.
For starters, Pope said, he’s the same age that Hanks was when the movie star appeared on the big screen.
“That’s a coincidence, but that’s a pretty cool one,” he said.
Throughout his journey, Pope has encountered people cheering, “Run, Rob, run,” to keep him motivated.
“People identify with the movie so much,” he said. “It’s a real feel-good film.”
On Monday, in Boston, Pope plans to dress just like Gump. He’ll don the red hat, the knee-high socks, the very short shorts, and a pair of white Nike shoes with a red swoosh, mirroring the outfit made famous by Hanks.
Pope also has the long and scraggly beard, to match.
“It’s pretty much seven months old now. It’s pretty impressive,” he said. “Nothing has been touched apart from trimming the mustache, so it doesn’t get too skanky.”
He has even been channeling Gump’s personality, a trick that has helped the runner stay focused when the going gets tough.
“[Gump] didn’t judge anyone and felt everyone had some good in them, and I have been trying to represent that,” Pope said. “I always try to have a smile on my face, even when I’m sort of feeling rubbish.”
And he just keeps running.