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Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the ‘hardest marathon in the world’

Rob Pope completed an ultramarathon dressed as Forrest Gump, thus raising the level of challenge significantly.

Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the 'hardest marathon in the world'
Rob Pope during the race. Credit: Storytrender

The 40-year-old has just completed the 156-mile race – otherwise known as ‘the hardest race in the world’ – and if you were wondering what the secret to his success is… it’s pork scratchings.

Rob has been running dressed as Tom Hanks’ iconic film character since 2001 to raise awareness for charities WWF and Peace Direct.

But now the Liverpool vet has smashed his hardest challenge yet – the six-day Marathon Des Sables, known as the toughest footrace on the planet, despite fearing for his life during the contest.

During the mammoth marathon, which began last week (7 April), all competitors were required to carry their own food and equipment to deal with the inhospitable desert conditions and 40-degree heat – which meant Rob found himself surviving on a mix of instant mashed potato, pork scratchings and chilli oil.

Rob, who previously ran 15,700 miles across the US in 2016 to recreate the route in the film, said: “I am currently unsure if I’d come back again as it was such a wonderful experience, I’m not sure I could match it – but never say never.

Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the 'hardest marathon in the world'
Rob during the 156-mile marathon. Credit: Storytrender

“After a six-hour coach journey, there was a day of technical checks designed to ensure you had at least 2,000 calories a day to eat, all the necessary kit that you need to survive for a week in the desert including sleeping mat and bag, a knife, emergency signalling kit, a compass, a snake venom extraction kit and a head-torch.

“My bag weighed 8kg before water and looked like I had a sofa in it. I had to have my first meal of MEGAMIX, a self-concocted mix of instant mash, pork scratchings and chilli oil, designed to give 1200 calories in 200g.

“If truth be told, it tasted great.”

Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the 'hardest marathon in the world'
Is it Forrest or Rob? Credit: Storytrender

He continued: “There is no real hierarchy in the desert – the Marathon Des Sables is do, or do not. The rule is finish, or a least bust a gut trying.

“It was the hardest race I’ve ever done, but it’s a funny and unique one in that it’s as hard as you make it and hard in different ways.

“The cut offs are such that most abilities and body shapes are able to complete it, as long as you’re prepared to dig deep and maybe skimp on personal hygiene a tad for a short while.”

I have a feeling this would be a ‘0/10, would not go again’ situation.

Rob finished 14th overall out of more than 750 competitors, with a time of 22 hours and 48 minutes – but is now delighted to be back at home in the UK with his fiancée Nadine Strawbridge and daughter Bee.

Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the 'hardest marathon in the world'
Rob with his fiancée Nadine and daughter Bee. Credit: Storytrender

He previously raised £37,000 ($48,000) for charity during his run across 43 states of the US, which took 422 days across 15,607 miles, before proposing to Nadine at the finish line.

Upon completing the race, he also got the chance to examine the Marathon’s official mascot dog, Cactus – revealing the pooch had ‘great teeth and a better body condition than most of the runners in the race, myself included’.

And even though Rob feared for his health at various points during the gruelling challenge, he never gave up.

Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the 'hardest marathon in the world'
After the race, Rob examined the mascot dog – Cactus. Credit: Storytrender

Rob added: “At some points I was coughing and my chest tightened – my heart rate shot up as I couldn’t get air into my lungs. One chap, Des, recognised the signs of an asthma like attack and gave me two puffs on his inhaler.

“My chest loosened a bit but the coughing got worse and a blood clot jumped into my mouth – soon after a chunk of dry mucus and sand followed it.

“I genuinely begun not to fear just for the race, but also for my life as I know how suddenly things can go wrong here, having seen people airlifted to hospital from the course.

“I had huge reasons to continue, with my charity goals, and as my previous entry in 2001 was cancelled due to a torn muscle. I had also made a promise to my new family that I would run the race for them and do them proud.”

Incredible! Forrest Gump conquers the 'hardest marathon in the world'
The brutal marathon in the Sahara Desert. Credit: Storytrender

“This new challenge is a continuation of me trying to raise awareness for causes I care about. I think Forrest Gump – and specifically the character of Forrest – is a beautiful tale of life and how we should treat one another.

“Forrest didn’t judge anyone, not on the colour of their skin, background, intelligence or anything else. If everyone could be a bit more like Forrest, the world would be a better place.”

For more information check: http://www.goingthedistancerun.com/

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