Friday 27 November 2015

Running with Forrest

"Mama said they would take me anywhere.  She said they were my magic shoes": Forrest Gump.

Running with Forrest

Forrest Gump, is one of my favourite movies.  Like most fellow runners, I love the part where Forrest runs across America.  Those visuals touch my heart. As the music soars and Forrest runs, my heart longs to run with Forrest.

However the reason I love the movie is because of the tremendous wisdom that this fictional character is able to impart.  
The most instructive part of Forrest running, according to me, is not when he runs, but when he stops.

Let me explain myself.
As Forrest keeps running across America, a growing group of runners start following him.  Forrest never actually articulates his need to run except to say, "I just felt like running".

The reporters keep asking him, "Are you running for world peace, for the environment, for women's rights, for the animals?" But Forrest keeps insisting that he runs because he feels like it. It seems that they can't believe that somebody could do all that running for no particular purpose.

And then, suddenly Forrest stops running, the group of runners following him stop behind him.  Forrest stands and looks around as the group waits expectantly behind him.  They expect him to say something profound.   
Forrest turns and looks at them.

And the following dialogues take place:
One of the followers says: “Quiet. Quiet, he's gonna say something.”
Forrest: “I'm pretty tired.  I think I'll go home now.”

Forrest then walks toward the group.  The group parts for Forrest as he walks down the middle of the road, and walks past them.

Now the runner who had spoken earlier exclaims with despair in his voice, "Now what are we supposed to do?

I love this part.  I love the question, "NOW WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO?"
It always reminds me of the Ancient Greek aphorism, "Know Thyself".
Emerson wrote that "Envy is ignorance, Imitation is suicide". 

These poor chaps who were simply imitating Forrest, no longer knew what to do once he stopped running. They had never articulated their own search, they had never formulated their own reason for running, and hence they were lost the minute Forrest stopped running.

They were inspired by Forrest but they had not assimilated his goal as their own.  They were simply imitating him and such imitation will always be fatal.

I love a story told by Osho:

“Zusia, a very religious man, was dying and he started praying.  Tears were flowing down from his eyes and he was trembling.

And somebody asked him, “What is the matter? Why are you trembling?”

He said, “I am trembling for a certain reason.  This is my last moment, I am dying.  Soon I will be facing my God, and I am certain he is Not going to ask me, “Zusia, why were you not a Moses?”

For if God were to ask this question, I would be fine because I have an answer. I will answer, "Lord, because you didn’t give me the qualities of a Moses”; and so there will be no problem.

He will not ask me, “Why were you not Rabbi Akiba?”
For if he asks me this question, I would be fine, because I have an easy answer.  I will tell him, “Sir, you never gave me the qualities of being an Akiba, that’s why.”

But I am trembling because if he asks me, “Zusia, why were you not Zusia?” then I will have nothing to answer.  Then I will have to look down in shame. That’s why I am trembling and these tears are flowing.

My whole life I tried to become Moses or Akiba or somebody else, and I completely forgot that God wanted me to be just Zusia and nobody else.  Now I am trembling, now I am afraid.   If he asks this question, what am I going to answer?” How will I be able to raise my eyes when he says, “Why were you not Zusia?  You were given all the qualities of being a Zusia, how did you miss?”

To be inspired by someone is fabulous but to imitate someone is to commit suicide.
Every man is unique with his own strengths and weaknesses. 

To be inspired is great because through another one can glimpse one’s own hidden possibilities. But every man’s path to enlightenment is his own.

I love the Zusia story because sometimes I have often found myself in a slightly similar trap.

As training for the Mumbai Marathon gets into high gear, I watch with fascination as my friends aspire to achieve fabulous goals.  For many of them, no distance seems too long, no volume too high, and no speed too fast.  They seem to know exactly where they are going.

I am inspired by them and am tempted to adopt their targets as my own.  But I need to remember that although I am inspired, I need to understand my own reasons for adopting such targets.

Early into his run across America, Forrest Gump meets a young man.  The young guy runs upto him, filled with excitement and says, "It's you.  I can't believe it’s really you."  And then he starts jogging behind Forrest and says, "I mean, it was like an alarm went off in my head, you know.  I said, here's a guy that's got his act together.  Here's somebody who's got it all figured out. 

Here's somebody who has the answer.  I'll follow you anywhere, Mr. Gump"

The problem with this approach is that Mr Gump may have the answer, but the answer will be unique to him. It won’t be the answer to your question. If you follow Forrest Gump you will reach his destination, not yours.

My friends have their own reasons and their own answers. Do I have mine? 

A fellow runner chasing his own personal best time and distance may have got his act together but if I am to follow him, then I too must get my act sorted out for myself and by myself. I can't rely on someone else's answer.  

I must remember what Emerson said, ““Insist on yourself; never imitate.”

In the movie, as children, Jenny Curran and Forrest have a conversation: 
Jenny: Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?
Forrest: Who I’am gonna be?
Jenny: Yeah
Forrest: Aren’t-aren’t I going to be me?

So as I train for the Mumbai Marathon, I look at my friends who are seeking speed and endurance and strength. 

I have learnt to admire them, I long to learn from them and I regularly seek inspiration from them but at the same time 

I never forget to ask myself: “Who am I gonna be?”

And the answer is always the same: I can only be me!


  1. Wow! One of your most insightful posts ever. Any runner who has run a race or has had a time target or distance target will immediately connect to this.

  2. Wonderful Amit. Equally applies to other aspects of life!

  3. Envy is Ignorance ... Imitation is Suicide!! .. Legendary Stuff!!

  4. Very well-written! Meaningful! As I continue to learn and evolve, I would surely want to be me, always!

  5. What can I say…once again, an excellent and thought provoking article…brilliant!

  6. Wonderful article! Motivated me to focus on going towards better me.

  7. Wonderfull words. Really inspiring for a person like me who is running for the first time after getting inspired by a few friends

  8. Very interesting post share "Running with Forrest". I will follow your blog post!


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