Forrest Gump’s wisdom has inspired many of us, but Rob Pope took that a step further, dressing as his hero for the run of his life. But why? And what did he learn?
On 15 September 2016, Rob Pope, a chipper veterinarian from Liverpool, sat down in the chair of Fluke’s Barbers in Mobile, Alabama, and readied himself for a haircut. “So what would you like?” the barber asked him. Pope held up a photo of Forrest Gump. It had taken years of planning for Pope to embark on this trip to America, to make it to this barber’s chair. He’d spent countless hours daydreaming about it, building the momentum to go. As his job became ever more miserable – he was working 13-hour days, five days a week – the urge to escape became insurmountable. He quit and, along with his partner and fellow vet, Nadine, headed west.
In many ways, the seed for this adventure was sown in 2002. That was the year Pope’s mum, Cathy, died after a cancer diagnosis. Cathy was a medical laboratory scientific officer and a single parent. She raised Pope with grit, determination and heartfelt support of his passion: running. He’d shown promise at the sport since his school days when he took part in the oft-dreaded cross-country and excelled at it. Cathy would take him to his races, which soon became marathons. Marathons after marathons. To Pope she was a best friend, a rock, an inspiration, a support-crew leader. Before she died she asked him to make a promise: “Do one thing in your life that makes a difference.” These words echoed in his mind as he sat in that Alabamabarbershop, awaiting his turn beneath the clippers.