The name of “Forrest Gump ad honorem” is often abused for runners, the last in a long line to have been awarded this title was Nick Butter for having done 211 marathons in two years, but forget to mention that at the base of the lucky character in the film played by Tom Hanks there is a true story. It is that of a carneade, a certain Louis Michael Figueroa, who forty years ago, after having finished first in the Los Angeles marathon, set out on a journey from his hometown New Brunswick, New Jersey, to San Francisco to actively support with a fundraiser from the American Cancer Society. To push him to the unprecedented enterprise for the times, to run for more than two months in a row, was the suffering of an adolescent with cancer, the brother of a close friend of his. So in his heart he made a vow that he would “run all over America if he beat cancer.”
The origins of the phenomenon
Louis’s run ended on a bench where he naturally replied to a reporter who asked him how he had done it: «Putting one foot in front of the other. When I was tired I slept, when I was hungry I ate, when I had to go to the bathroom I went there “, thirty years later it has become a joke. Forrest Gump. Years later Figueroa made two encores, first to sensitize people to the fight against leukemia and then against violence against minors by elevating the race to a metaphor of how anything can be done, a mission taken up by followers unaware of his deeds and brought to the big screen. But first the story was told in a book underlying the phenomenon of gumpism, by Winston Groom, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, who passed away last year. To the novel Forrest Gump he started working in 1985, that is three years after the feat of Figueroa but apparently the idea of the title character was given to him by his father who told him about a boy known as “the slow one” not really an athlete but a talented pianist . The protagonist of the book became in 1994 the homonymous film directed by Robert Zemeckis, whose success dragged the sales of the book as well as spreading Gumpism. As often happens, the author of the book did not appreciate the film very much as it was less complex and rather naive and would have preferred more fidelity to its version, while acknowledging that “it would not have had the same success”.
The mission before the race
The fact is that the famous race told in the six Oscar-winning film is inspired by the book, leaving out precisely Figueroa, who has remained an unknown carneade. Certainly the spread of Gumpism and its proselytism owes much to the film and to the character inspired by the book, so much so that by quoting a joke “everyone calls me Forrest Gump” it can be said that everyone is called new Forrest Gump whenever they set new running records endurance. But what they haven’t inherited from the forgotten Figueroa is often the aim of supporting and espousing a cause, preferring to push boundaries and break records. But as the runner who left to support the American Cancer Society understood when he was only sixteen, the important thing is not to run far and wide in large spaces but to do it in support of a higher cause and not commit to a mission on behalf of of one’s ego.
February 23, 2021 (change February 23, 2021 | 18:42)
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