I had run for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours.
~ Forrest Gump
Apparently, I’m a bit behind on the Forrest Gump bandwagon. After viewing the film in its entirety recently, I knew I had to flesh out a concept that was thematically addressed throughout — running. Whenever I think of ‘running’ from a psychological standpoint, I conjure up images of people trying to escape life, avoid their problems and mentally recharge elsewhere, without coping effectively.
However, when I saw Forrest run (“Run Forrest run” is the famous line), I gathered that he wasn’t running away — he was running toward something. In fact, maybe the notion of chasing your dreams isn’t such a cliché after all.
Early in the movie, a young Forrest is attacked by a group of bullies, and his best friend (Jenny) instructs him to run. Initially, we watch this boy (entrapped in rigid leg braces) attempt to dodge the rocks thrown his way, while running from his aggressors. And then, almost miraculously, he sheds his braces, mid-run. He simply runs fast; perhaps toward freedom.
“From that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running,” he said.
During an intense scene set during the Vietnam War, Forrest’s platoon is massively hit by enemy fire. Selflessly, Forrest charges through the jungle, trying to save fellow soldiers and his friend, Bubba. Unfortunately, Bubba does not live, but Forrest’s efforts exemplifying loyalty and friendship surely do not go unnoticed. In these moments of rescue, Forrest may be running toward survival, hoping to preserve what’s left.
And at a later stage in Forrest’s life, he runs for a much longer period of time. He ran across the state of Alabama, to the ocean, to another ocean, and he kept on going. When he was hungry, he ate, and when he was tired, he slept. “My mama always said you got to put the past behind you, before you can move on, and I think that’s what my running was about,” he stated.
I don’t particularly find it coincidental that Forrest’s journey began after Jenny (his one true love) walked out of his life yet again. Maybe this time, he was running toward her, toward a closure for everything they’ve been through.
A post on Thought Catalog sheds light on the common conception that running (figuratively) equates avoidance. The author, Matthew Kepnes, notes how those who travel frequently, lingering in foreign lands and leading nomadic lifestyles, are perceived to be people running away from something. Kepnes denies that he’s running away from the ‘real world;’ he says he’s running from a certain version of the ‘real world,’ while running toward his own vision.
“I’m running away from monotony, 9-to-5, rampant consumerism, and the conventional path,” he wrote. “I’m running towards the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom and living. I think the reason why people tell us travelers we’re running away is because they can’t fathom the fact that we broke the mold and are living outside the norm.”
Whether it’s Forrest Gump or other travelers who defend why they roam and uphold a wanderlust nature, running doesn’t necessarily have to be flagged as an emotional struggle. When we run toward our hopes and desires, we’re going after what we’re seeking. Quite the opposite of running away, don’t you think?