Lubbock, TX - A man ran along West Texas highways and across Lubbock streets Thursday, smiling as he spent hours of his day with his feet striking the pavement. He wore a simple t-shirt and shorts, a bushy beard, and a hat that read "Bubba Gump Shrimp Co."
"One day I just decided to go for a little run, I started in Mobile, Alabama and I ran all the way to the ocean, to Santa Monica, California and seeing as I got that far I decided to come back, and so here I am in Lubbock, half way across the country," said 38-year-old Rob Pope who completed his second run of the day at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock.
If his story sounds reminiscent of a beloved film with Tom Hanks, that's because it is. Pope is attempting to recreate Forrest Gump's run back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth again cross-country from the movie of the same name. Pope tells EverythingLubbock.com that he is the first person to attempt the entire run.
But Pope didn't only "just feel like running," he is turning his footsteps into a fundraiser for two organizations he cares about, the World Wildlife Fund and Peace Direct.
Pope is from Liverpool and made the trek across the pond to complete this run.
"I've always been a bit of a runner, always done a lot of marathons so and I had the idea I really wanted to run across the country, I'm a big fan of American culture and especially the music and so I thought let's plan a bit of a route, then I thought if I'm doing that I should do it for charity and make it as successful as possible," Pope explained. "And it was a few years ago when I was watching the film "Forrest Gump" and I thought that's the route I should do, not just once, let's go across maybe up to five times-- as long as I'm not too tired."
He began the run September 15 of 2016 (which is also when he began growing the beard he currently features). In the movie, Forrest began the run while a broadcast played in a barbershop about President Jimmy Carter collapsing during a race on September 15, which is how Pope determined that would be the start of his journey.
These context clues from the movie are what Pope bases his itinerary off of.
"Yeah it's difficult to tell his exact route and most of the info we get is from a newscast where there's a map behind the reporter, we know he got to Santa Monica because he got to the end of the pier and we know he went to Maine because he reached Marshall Point Lighthouse where he turned around," Pope said. "And some of that in the meantime I've been able to have a little bit of artistic license with, so I've chosen the places I'd like to come to."
Which is part of what brought him to Lubbock. As a Liverpool native, Pope is a huge Beatles fan.
"And they say that Liverpool is England's friendliest city and I was amazed when I came through [Lubbock] I saw a banner at the side of the road saying "Lubbock: America's Friendliest City" so that's a good fit," Pope laughed. "But obviously with Liverpool, the Beatles wouldn't exist without Buddy Holly and the Crickets, I think Paul McCartney says Buddy Holly was the single biggest influence on the Beatles. So if I had the opportunity to come and pay my little tribute to him, that's fine by me."
During his brief time in Lubbock, Pope made sure to get a tour of the Buddy Holly Center.
Pope ran through Lubbock on a day of high fire danger and intense winds. He said he didn't mind because the wind was at his back. He also had to dodge a few tumbleweeds.
"I've had to race with a few of them and we've had a couple of them running at me like a line backer," he laughed.
Pope has to keep up a steady pace, he is aiming to make it to Boston in time for the marathon. According to his calculations, he needs to run 41 miles each day (with only one off day) to make it in time. From Lubbock, he aims to run to Giansville, TX, then to Arkansas, and in a few weeks to Nashville.
All the while he is trying to earn as much money as he can for Peace Direct and the World Wildlife Foundation. As a veterinary surgeon by trade and a lover of the environment, he is very committed to supporting wildlife and taking care of the planet. If you would like to donate to his fundraising efforts or simply follow his journey look here.
When will he stop running?
"I've got a bit of a self imposed rule, if I've got seven days in a row and say I don't want to do this any more, I'll utter the famous words, 'I'm pretty tired, I think I'll go home now,' but that's a long way off, I haven't had any more than one bad day in a row so far," he said.