How Did Forrest Gump Run So Far and Long?

Forrest Gump is full of magical moments throughout American history. Forrest (Tom Hanks) meets celebrities Elvis Presley and John Lennon. He appears at historical events and meets several U.S. Presidents. However, one of the most amazing things he does is completely made up. He runs back and forth across the country for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours. 

Tom Hanks sitting on the bench as Forrest Gump
Tom Hanks | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

Hanks did not have to run quite as much as Forrest. He only had to run for the shots that make up the film. Still, simulating Forrest’s cross country feat was a feat for the Forrest Gump filmmakers, too. Here’s how Forrest, and the movie, pulled it off. 

Why did Forrest Gump run?

Forrest proposes marriage to Jenny (Robin Wright) but she turns him down. She sleeps with him that night, but leaves before he wakes up. Forrest himself didn’t understand his motivation, but running had ccarried him through college football and the Vietnam War. So he started running again.

“That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run” Forrest tells a stranger on the bus stop bench. I ran to the end of the road. When I got there I thought I might run to the end of town. When I got there I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. I figured since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. That’s what I did.”

Forrest Gump running from his house
Tom Hanks | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

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Forrest continues to explain he just didn’t stop. At one point a news reporter covers his fourth time across the U.S.

“I ran clear across Alabama,” Forrest said. “No particular reason, I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. When I got there, I figured since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around and just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured since I’d gone this far, might as well turn back, keep right on going.”

When people in the movie asked Forrest why he was running, he put it simply. “I just felt like running,” Forrest said.

How did Forrest Gump keep running?

Forrest Gump never claims that Forrest ran nonstop. That would be impossible, even in a magical movie like Forrest Gump. They just never show him sleeping or sitting down to lunch or dinner.

“When I got tired, I slept, when I got hungry, I ate,” Forrest said. “When I had to go, you know, I went.”

The filmmakers had to create a cross country run

Maybe simulating a cross country three-year-run is easier than running thousands of miles yourself, but it’s still not easy. In the commentary track on the Forrest Gump Blu-ray, director Robert Zemeckis and producers discuss the challenges of filming Forrest’s run. Since his hair and beard grows, and his clothes peel away, they had to plan out how Forrest looked in each part of the country he ran through. And, of course they did not film his run in order. 

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“That was an absolute nightmare because there was no form to that,” Zemeckis said. “We just went and shot Forrest and the photo double. He’s running across America but we couldn’t just do that in real time. That was really hard to design because I knew I couldn’t switch those shots around later. I couldn’t say this shot should go later because his beard would be too short.”