Forrest Gump Running Analysis: Just How Far Did Forrest Run?

Most of us are familiar with the classic 1994 American comedy-drama film Forrest Gump, and if you’ve seen the film, you undoubtedly remember the iconic Forrest Gump running sequence.

Forrest decides out of the blue to start running from his home in Alabama and keeps going and going, proceeding to cross the United States five times before he finally gets tired and decides to stop.

However, is the feat that Forrest achieved actually possible? Could someone run long-distance every day for three years and still cover the same distance that Forrest did? In fact, how far did Forrest Gump actually run?

We’ve answered these questions and more, taking a look at Forrest’s epic running feat from the perspective of an ultrarunner:

  • Why Did Forrest Gump Run?
  • Where Exactly Did Forrest Gump Run? (Which Routes Did He Take Across America)
  • Where Did Forrest Gump Stop Running?
  • How Long Did Forrest Gump Run?
  • How Far Did Forrest Gump Run?
  • How Many Calories Did Forrest Burn?
  • Forrest Gump Running Gear Breakdown
  • Forrest Gump Running: Is His Feat Possible In Real Life? (And Has Anyone Done It?)

Let’s jump straight in.

Monument Valley, where Forrest Gump finished his running.

Why Did Forrest Gump Run?

When recalling his life story, Forrest describes how when his lifelong love Jenny left him overnight, Forrest decided the next morning to “start running for no particular reason at all.”

When interviewed by news crews about his motivations, Forrest simply states that “he just felt running.”

Forrest explains how when he was running; everything just made sense. Many runners of all abilities can relate to this and how sometimes, to clear your head, you need nothing more than to get out of the house and get moving (although a few kilometers should suffice for most, rather than 15,000 miles).

Forrest Gump was not part of a competition, nor in it for fame or glory. This philosophy is similar to that of many ultrarunners, for whom it isn’t about winning the race or being as fast as possible but just getting it done and doing it for the sake of doing it.

Forrest Gump running route.
Wikimedia

Where Exactly Did Forrest Gump Run? (Which Routes Did He Take Across America)

As it isn’t explicitly stated in the film exactly how far Forrest ran, we first need to break down the route he took in order to calculate the distance.

In the film, Forrest begins in his fictional hometown of Mobile, Alabama (not much use for calculating a real-life starting point). However, in the book, Forrest lives in the real-life town of Greenbow, Alabama, so we can consider this his starting point.

Forrest runs to the end of his street but doesn’t feel like stopping. So, he then runs to the end of town, yet still doesn’t feel like stopping… He proceeds to run across the whole county, then into the state of Mississippi, and just keeps on going.

We know that Forrest began running on October 1, 1979, due to the fact that when Forrest runs past a cafe on his first day, we hear a radio announcement stating that President Carter has collapsed from heat exhaustion, which happened on that exact date.

Santa Monica California.

Forrest then eventually arrives at a yacht harbor in a place called Santa Monica. We can safely presume that this is Santa Monica in California on the Pacific Coast due to the fact that we know Forrest was traveling in a westerly direction, seeing as he passed into Mississippi after Alabama.

He then decides, “Since I came this far, I might as well turn around and keep going,” and we next see Forrest arriving at a lighthouse on the Atlantic coast.

Forrest again decides to “keep right on going.”

From here, we see shots of Forrest running across the endless flat cereal fields of the great plains, the dramatic snow-capped mountains of the Rockies, the barren deserts of the Southwest, and more. While he runs, we gradually see his hair and beard grow long.

As he continues to run back and forth across the US, he gradually picks up a group of dedicated followers who follow his every step, as well as being pursued at various points by news reporters looking to interview him and entrepreneurs looking for advice from the man dedicated to such an incredible feat.

A wooden sign that says Forrest Gump, ending cross country spot.
Wikimedia

Where Did Forrest Gump Stop Running?

Forrest eventually gets tired and stops running in the iconic Monument Valley.

By this point, he has 50 or so people following him, to whom he unceremoniously announces: “I’m pretty tired… think I’ll go home now”.

How Long Did Forrest Gump Run?

As the film tells us, he runs for a total of 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.

How Far Did Forrest Gump Run?

By looking in detail at the filming locations and analyzing the script, Centives were able to estimate the route taken by Forrest across the US.

Forrest Gump ran an estimated total of 15,248 miles (or 24,539 km) during his five-time trip across the USA.

He averaged 91 miles per week, with an average speed of 0.54 miles per hour. This equates to 13 miles or 21 kilometers per day, which is slightly less than a half marathon per day.

You can check out the exact route in detail here.

The Rocky Mountains.

How Many Calories Did Forrest Burn?

We aren’t exactly given a detailed breakdown of Forrest’s nutritional plan during his ultrarunning feat, as he simply states: “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate”. It’s clear that Forrest is a big advocate for intuitive eating.

The recommended calorie consumption per day for the average male is 2500 calories, but Forrest was likely burning somewhere close to an additional 1500 calories per day due to his running, as calculated in our calories burned running calculator.

However, there would have been many days when he was burning considerably more than 3500 calories, such as when he was running in the heat of the desert or running through mountains. In fact, Forrest had to cross both the Rocky Mountain Range and the Appalachian Mountains four times in total.

We can also expect that Forrest was burning more calories per day at the start of his ultrarunning adventure, as he was less fit and therefore had a lower running economy, meaning that he was burning more calories per minute spent running.

In total, throughout his three-year adventure, Forrest would have burned over 2 million calories just from running.

People running on a highway.

Forrest Gump Running Gear Breakdown

For the whole duration of his run, Forrest wears Nike Classic Cortez shoes, which were, in fact, Nike’s very first track shoe.

As Forrest himself says: “Those must be comfortable shoes; I bet you could walk all day in shoes like those and not feel a thing.” However, whilst at the time they were top-performing shoes, he would likely have found it a lot easier with the advanced running shoes of today.

When we next see Forrest in the movie, he donned a windbreaker-style sports jacket and some tracksuit bottoms. At some points, we also see him wearing high-waisted running shorts and a chequered shirt. Of course, we never see him without his signature ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.’ red cap.

Whilst he wears some sporty-looking shorts, it’s needless to say that the rest of Forrest’s running attire certainly wouldn’t be the number 1 choice for most ultrarunners (you can only imagine the chafing).

Furthermore, we don’t ever see Forrest carrying a water bottle, so you can imagine he must have struggled when passing through the deserts of Southwest America.

A sunset view of Monument Valley Utah.

Forrest Gump Running: Is His Feat Possible In Real Life? (And Has Anyone Done It?)

Many of us have wondered how realistic is Forrest’s feat during the film. Could he have done it without any training?

As calculated, Forrest ran a half marathon every day on average for more than three years straight, which is a very difficult feat, but by no means is it impossible.

There are ultrarunners who have achieved even greater feats, such as Dean Karnazes, who ran a marathon (double the distance Forrest ran) every day for 50 days. He also ran 3000 miles across America in 75 days, averaging 40-50 miles per day, which seems like a huge distance compared to Forrest’s 13 miles per day.

However, Dean is a professional athlete and world record holder, so it makes sense that Forrest, a novice, was running much less per day.

An ultrarunner with snow-capped mountains behind him.

Bob Pope, an ultrarunner from Liverpool in the UK, was inspired by the film and decided to attempt the feat for himself whilst even wearing the same clothes as Forrest. Pope managed to run the same distance as Forrest in 422 days, considerably less time than Forrest.

However, we should note that Pope also had his wife providing support in an RV along much of the way, and he also got through 33 pairs of shoes.

Pope averaged 40 miles a day, which is much more than Forrest’s 13 miles per day. However, it makes sense that Forrest would be running less each day due to him starting as a beginner runner and being completely on his own.

Fancy attempting Forrest’s epic feat for yourself? Well, before you run straight out the door, check out our ultrarunning training resources, as well as how to keep yourself properly fueled along the way.

An open road in Utah.
Photo of author
Hailing from Brighton, UK, Felix is a lover of running, cycling, and all things active. When he's not exploring a remote corner of the globe on a bike-packing trip, Felix enjoys meditating, making music, and running as far as his legs will let him!

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