Inspired by fans, runner goes extraordinary lengths to pay tribute to Warriors

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Jim Plunkett-Cole says he was not a Warriors fan previous to coming to the Bay Area, but he says now, he's one for life.

The long distance runner from Great Britain arrived to San Francisco during the NBA Finals, as Golden State faced the Cavaliers to win back the title.

Plunkett-Cole has been traveling throughout the U.S., running an average of 17 miles a day and visiting schools and youth programs along the way to encourage the importance of healthy living and being active.

During his evening runs when he first arrived in San Francisco, Plunkett-Cole tells KTVU that he would hear bursts of excitement emanating from bars across the city.

"I had been running around the streets when all I could hear was people watching the game in the many bars that were filled with cheering."

The excitement was widespread and contagious, describes Plunkett-Cole.

He says he even noticed homeless people peering through the windows of bars to catch a glimpse of the game.

Soon he found himself doing the same. Along his running route, he would make stops at bars for a quick check at the score and to see what was going on.

"It got to the last game when they were crowned champions and the whole of the city went absolutely wild," says Plunkett-Cole.

"When I saw the passion and the enthusiasm, I felt really inspired... I could see how it was bringing all together," he adds.

So he began to think about how he could pay tribute to not only this inspiring team, but also to its devoted fans.

"It was their interest, their enthusiasm that inspired me," the runner says.

That's when he came up with the idea-- and he set out to spell the words "Warriors 2017 NBA champs" with a run that ended up spanning more than 50-miles through San Francisco streets.

The day after the Warriors title win, Plunkett-Cole plotted his route. He picked up a map of the city at a AAA office and then grabbed a highlighter to outline his route.

He then laced up his shoes and began covering what he expected to be a 30 mile route.

After 18 miles and only a few letters drawn out on his Strava navigation map, it got dark and he had to call it a day.

The next day he got up and traveled another 32 miles to complete his tribute message.

In all it took 12 hours and 50.3 miles.

(Though if you count the ten miles he had to run to get to and from his starting and ending points, Plunkett-Cole says he ended up covering 60 miles over some 14 hours.)

He took a photo of the words sprawled out on his Strava navigation map, and the image has since gone viral, even being shared by the Warriors on its Facebook page.

Affectionally known as "Jim Gump," the 48-year-old says he is channeling the spirit of Forrest Gump, in the 1994 film in which Tom Hanks plays the inspirational title character who runs across the country.

For Plunkett-Cole, he says his purpose to "run Forrest, run" is part of his mission to raise awareness about childhood obesity and encourage young people to be active everyday.

During the 5,600 miles he has run so far here in the U.S., Plunkett-Cole has visited dozens of schools in numerous cities including New York, Boston, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

He's also visited hundreds of schools across the U.K. where he lives and where his journey began on Oct. 1, 2016.

Plunkett-Cole says after he lost his mother in 2013, he began running daily.

In the past four-and-a-half years, he says he has not missed a single day.

Plunkett-Cole, who lives with Aspergers Syndrome, says running has served as an important coping strategy for him as he prefers to spend a lot of time alone.

It is during his runs, when he gets all of his ideas, when he is the most creative and can really hash out his plans and organize his thoughts, he says.

Plunkett-Cole, who is an economist and analyst by trade, says after his mother's passing, he took the $70,000 inheritance he received and put it toward his mission to use his running to inspire and encourage young people to be active.

His goal is to cover 20,000 miles in the U.S., over three years.

It has been a grassroots effort, which he's headed up pretty much on his own, according to Plunkett-Cole. 

He does not charge schools or youth organizations any money for his appearances.

He says he has received some donations through a small crowd-funding effort and the generosity of groups like the hotel management company, Evolution Hospitality, which has helped him with lodging in the Bay Area.

Plunkett-Cole says he has enough money to remain in the Bay Area for another three to four weeks, during which he plans to reach out to Silicon Valley companies to see if they want to join in his efforts to help inspire young people to engage in a healthy, active lifestyle.

Plunkett-Cole says because of his Aspergers, he is limited when it comes to making connections and interacting with others.

In fact, he describes himself as a "happy robot."

But he says when he sees the excitement on the faces of children who hear his stories from his running adventures, and when they come up to him, inspired and energized, he can't help but be affected by their warmth.

"Their reaction to me is what keeps me going, keeps be running everyday," says Plunkett-Cole.