In the eponymous, Oscar-winning film, Forrest Gump ran back and forth across America for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours. He ran for no particular reason, other than to perhaps get over a broken heart.

Stranger than fiction 

In October, inspired by the film character, Englishman Jim Plunkett-Cole set out from Mobile, Alabama, on a three-year, 20,000-mile run crisscrossing the United States. He is running for a very particular reason: to encourage kids to engage in daily exercise.

The 47-year-old Plunkett-Cole says the grand scheme started back in 2013 when the London Olympics inspired him to run 365 back-to-back 10Ks. After accomplishing that feat, he carried on in 2014, but also set up a public initiative to encourage adults to do something physical every day for a full year. In 2015, he added swimming and biking to the mix, and succeeded in completing a triathlon every day.

“Inspiring children is where I feel I can make the greatest difference in my lifetime.”

That same year, he was invited to speak at a primary school, where he told children of the adventures he had during his daily exercise and encouraged them to engage in physical activity. After his speech, he led the children on a run around the playground.

“The children were really fired up and just wanted to keep on running,” he says, “even when the teachers wanted them to stop. I came away feeling really inspired myself.”

The JimGump challenge

After that first speaking engagement, he was repeatedly inspired by students, parents, teachers and principals at many schools, and eventually decided to set up the JimGump educational challenge. While it would be a huge accomplishment to complete one of the longest, unbroken daily runs in human history, Plunkett-Cole says he wants to do much more than that.

“I hope to inspire a generation into being more physically active each day,” he explains. “This is the bigger achievement. Inspiring children is where I feel I can make the greatest difference in my lifetime.”