Early in life, a mother?s softly spoken words act as reassuring presence, a constant reminder of their unequivocal love; inspirational declarations tend to arrive much later. Cathy Pope, who died of cancer in 2002, implored her son, Rob, to ?Do one thing in your life that makes a difference.?
Young Rob, an English veterinarian, certainly did that, running across the USA an incredible five times between September 2016 and April 2018, replicating the silver screen exertions of Forrest Gump. His book, Becoming Forrest, is an outstanding mixture of travelogue and extraordinary endurance.
Becoming Forrest proves that books recording extraordinary examples of sporting prowess do not require a well-known superstar to be centre stage. Rob had run ?a few? marathons and one ultra-marathon and, by a strange quirk, became Australia?s marathon champion in 2015, but he was hardly a household name before he embarked on a journey of more than 15,600 miles. Indeed, in many respects, books such as this will often encourage readers to follow suit, perhaps not on such an epic scale, but they do stir people into action in a way that say, a top flight footballer cannot.
Conscious of his mother?s wish, Rob Pope decided to tackle the USA in the style of Forrest Gump who, in the movie, took 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours to complete a similarly lengthy trip.
Inspired not only by the late Cathy?s words, he is motivated by the prospect of ?running through the Nevada desert, the Joshua Tree National Park and Chicago, across the Mississippi, past Atlantic Records, Graceland and the Big Rock Candy Mountain.?
In addition to ticking off an impressive list of sights, Pope also encountered extremes of weather and dangerous animals aside from fielding regular enquiries after his sanity. He completely immersed himself into American life, referring to the US as the ?country of music and film legends, of stories and adventure.?
In the process of adopting his ?Forrest? persona during this gruelling run, Rob Pope becomes a different man (who wouldn?t?), while he can be assured that he fulfilled his mother?s wish to the letter. Eccentric? Perhaps. Inspirational? Absolutely. Buy it.