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

Plus, can it really be done?

Most of us are familiar with the classic Paramount Pictures 1994 American comedy-drama film Forrest Gump. If you’ve seen the film, you undoubtedly remember the iconic movie scenes of Forrest Gump running.

Gump, played by Tom Hanks, decides out of the blue to start running from his home in Alabama and keeps going and going, proceeding to cross the United States in a ping-pong fashion five times before he finally gets tired and decides to stop.

However, is the feat that Gump achieved actually possible, or just possible in Hollywood? Could someone run long-distance every day for three years and still cover the same distance that Gump did?

In fact, how far did Forrest Gump actually run?

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

In this Forrest Gump running guide we examine the ins and outs of Gump’s epic running feat from the perspective of an ultra runner. Run, Forrest, Run!

Monument Valley, where Forrest Gump finished his running.

Why Did Forrest Gump Run?

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

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

Gump explains that 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 in a competition, nor was he 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

Which Routes Did Forrest Gump Take Across America?

As the film doesn’t explicitly state exactly how far Gump ran in his cross-country runs, we first need to break down his route to calculate the distance.

In the film, Gump begins in his 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 then runs across the whole county, then into the state of Mississippi, and just keeps on going.

We know that Gump began running on October 1, 1979, because when he ran past a cafe on his first day, we heard a radio announcement stating that President Carter had collapsed from heat exhaustion, which happened on that exact date.

Santa Monica California.

Gump eventually arrives at a yacht harbor in Santa Monica. We can safely presume that this is Santa Monica, California, on the Pacific Coast because we know Gump 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,” we next see Gump arriving at a lighthouse on the Atlantic coast.

Gump 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. At various points, news reporters looking to interview him and entrepreneurs looking for advice from the man dedicated to such an incredible feat pursue him.

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 about 50 people following him, to whom he unceremoniously announces, “I’m pretty tired… I 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, Centives1Forrest Gump’s Running Route. (2012, May 14). Centives. https://www.centives.net/S/2012/forrest-gumps-running-route/ 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, 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 Gump Burn?

We aren’t exactly given a detailed breakdown of Gump’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. In one of the movieclips he does eat from the iconic box of chocolates.

The recommended daily calorie intake for the average male is 2500 calories. Still, Gump was likely burning 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 running in the heat of the desert or through mountains. Throughout the Forrest Gump movie, he had to cross both the Rocky Mountain range and the Appalachian Mountains four times in total.

We can also expect that Gump was burning more calories per day at the start of his ultrarunning adventure. 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 wore 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, while 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 wears a windbreaker-style sports jacket and tracksuit bottoms. At some points, he also wears high-waisted running shorts and a checkered shirt. Of course, we never see him without his signature ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.’ red cap.

While 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 Gump’s feat is 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 Gump 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 Gump’s 13 miles per day.

However, Dean is a professional athlete and world record holder, so it makes sense that Gump, a novice, ran much less daily.

An ultrarunner with snow-capped mountains behind him.

Rob 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, which was 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 went through 33 pairs of shoes.

Pope averaged 40 miles a day,2Coldwell, W. (2021, October 31). The real life Forrest Gump: why did Rob Pope run across the US five times? The Observer. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/oct/31/the-real-life-forrest-gump-why-did-bob-pope-run-across-the-us-five-times which is much more than Forrest’s 13 miles per day. However, it makes sense that Forrest would be running less each day because he started as a beginner runner and was entirely on his own.

Fancy attempting Gump’s epic feat for yourself? Before you run straight out the door, check out our ultrarunning training resources, and learn how to keep yourself properly fueled along the way.

An open road in Utah.

Forrest Gump is a fun comedy-drama that won Best Picture and many other Academy Awards. Join Forrest, Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise), Jenny (Robin Wright), and Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) and their experiences in the second half of the 20th century.

You can buy and watch the full video on Apple T.V.

References

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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!

5 thoughts on “Forrest Gump Running Analysis: Just How Far Did Forrest Run?”

  1. We know that Forrest began running on October 1, 1979, (the day before he got Jenny pregnant with little Forrest, so Little Forrest would have been born around June/July of 1981.

    The film ends present day 1994 with Little Forrest getting on a school bus..but Little Forrest would be a teenager by then

    Reply

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