Running Movie of the Week: Forrest Gump

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One of my favorite pastimes is watching movies. So, now that my racing season is over until the spring and the temperatures are starting to drop outside, I decided it would be a good time to enjoy some inspirational running movies and share my picks with you! I’ve already seen some of the movies I’ll share, but others I’ll be watching for the first time (recommendations are welcome!). To kick things off, I’ve chosen one of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump, as the inaugural Running Movie of the Week. Obviously (although I doubt I need to say this for a movie that was released in 1994), *Spoiler Alert* for the rest of this post.

The Movie: Forrest Gump

Synopsis (from “‘Stupid is as stupid does,’ says Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning performance) as he discusses his relative level of intelligence with a stranger while waiting for a bus. Despite his sub-normal IQ, Gump leads a truly charmed life, with a ringside seat for many of the most memorable events of the second half of the 20th century. Entirely without trying, Forrest teaches Elvis Presley to dance, becomes a football star, meets John F. Kennedy, serves with honor in Vietnam, meets Lyndon Johnson, speaks at an anti-war rally at the Washington Monument, hangs out with the Yippies, defeats the Chinese national team in table tennis, meets Richard Nixon, discovers the break-in at the Watergate, opens a profitable shrimping business, becomes an original investor in Apple Computers, and decides to run back and forth across the country for several years. Meanwhile, as the remarkable parade of his life goes by, Forrest never forgets Jenny (Robin Wright Penn), the girl he loved as a boy, who makes her own journey through the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s that is far more troubled than the path Forrest happens upon. Featured alongside Tom Hanks are Sally Field as Forrest’s mother; Gary Sinise as his commanding officer in Vietnam; Mykelti Williamson as his ill-fated Army buddy who is familiar with every recipe that involves shrimp; and the special effects artists whose digital magic place Forrest amidst a remarkable array of historical events and people.”


The Running Story: Whether Forrest is running away from bullies, running towards the endzone, running to rescue his friends from enemy fire, or running until he comes to terms with losing the woman he loves, running is essential to his character’s forward movement through life. Forrest’s exceptional speed is stressed early on, as it helps to free him from his leg braces when he’s a child, earns him a college scholarship, and saves many of his friend’s lives in Vietnam. The therapeutic power of running is explored when Forrest spends three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours running across the country (multiple times), which enables him to deal with the death of his mother and his marriage proposal to Jenny being rejected.

Fun Facts (from 

  • “The running scene was inspired by an actual event. In 1982, Louis Michael Figueroa, aged 16, ran from New Jersey to San Francisco for the American Cancer Society, unknowingly inspiring a line for Forrest Gump’s famous run on the silver screen. ‘I just put one foot in front of the other,’ it goes. ‘When I get tired I sleep. When I get hungry I eat. When I have to go to the bathroom, I go.'”
  • “If Forrest ‘ran three years, two months, fourteen days and sixteen hours’ and left his front porch early in the morning of Monday, July 5th, 1976 because he ‘felt like running’, his entire transcontinental running marathon commenced on Monday, July 5th, 1976 at 7:00 AM EDT (approximately) in Greenbow, Alabama and terminated 1,171 days later (167 weeks and 2 days), on Wednesday, September 19th, 1979 at 8:00 PM MDT (approximately) in Monument Valley, Utah.”
  • “Tom Hanks’ younger brother Jim Hanks doubled for him in many of his numerous running sequences.”


Why is it my movie of the week? Besides being one of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump is, without a doubt, one of the best (and most famous) running movies out there–and it’s not even really about running! This movie is almost 20 years old, but show me any runner, and I’ll show you someone who’s had “Run, Forrest, Run!” shouted at them by a passing car. It’s also a surprisingly inspirational movie for runners. Forrest runs across   some really beautiful landscapes during the cross-country running sequence, and every time I see it, I find myself wanting to drive to somewhere scenic and just run forever. There’s also just something really poignant and beautiful about the line “I just felt like running,” which is spoken by Forrest when he explains why he ran across the country for over three years. As a runner, I really do believe in the therapeutic power of running to help me feel better (see also: this post from Mark Remy on Runner’s World). Whenever I’m feeling really overwhelmed, or angry, or sad, going for a run is usually 100% effective in helping me get over whatever’s bothering me (or at least relax me enough so I can move on with my life).