Rockhampton’s bearded runner is on a hair-raising journey around the world

Rockhampton’s bearded runner is on a hair-raising journey around the world
  • PublishedJanuary 22, 2024

He has been nicknamed the modern-day “Forrest Gump” and the “Beard to be Feared” on the Australian running scene.

And just like Tom Hanks’s iconic character Forrest in the acclaimed movie, the champion Rockhampton runner said he just felt like running from an early age.

“As a young fella I grew up on the paddocks running around after cattle just to fight off boredom,” he said.

“When I got older, 5 kilometres turned into 10km, turned into a half marathon, turned into a marathon, turned into ultra-marathons now, so I’m just running for days on end if possible.”

The 35-year-old’s longest distance covered in an ultra-marathon is 250km.

As for his beard, the chippie’s wizard-like whiskers measure 250 millimetres.

A man with short dark brown hair and brown, ginger beard flowing in the wind.
Williams and his glorious beard in full flight.(Supplied: Rhys Williams)

“I decided to grow a beard when I got back into the construction industry in 2015 after a bit of time off and I’ve just kept growing it,” he said.

“The wind grabs hold of it when I run. The faster runs, it sort of just parts in the middle and over the shoulders … and for the slower runs, it just sits there and bobs along and shows me which way to go.”

A man a long brown, ginger beard wearing in a blue singlet and light blue hat at a mountain run.
Williams clocks up many kilometres competing in ultra-marathons and trail runs.(Supplied: Rhys Williams)

Williams said over the years, his beard had grown a cult following of its own.

“The ‘Beard to be Feared’ is a nickname I picked up at an ultra-marathon in Cairns … wherever I’m running along people yell out from their cars, ‘Run Forrest, run,'” he said.

“I think it’s a lot more famous than I am … people say, ‘Oh, I saw a bloke running’, and they go, ‘Did he have a beard?’ and ‘Yeah, yes, he did have a beard.'”

A man with a long brown, ginger beard wearing a light blue running singlet.
Williams’s Forrest Gump-style beard measures 250mm in length.(ABC Capricornia: Aaron Kelly)

Running around the world

With work and family constraints, the proud father-of-one is not capable of “doing a Forrest Gump” by running around Australia,  but he has virtually.

Two years ago, he completed a Run Down Under as part of the Run the World running app.

It took Williams 1,817 days to complete the epic 14,080km virtual journey across the country.

The bearded runner is currently making his way around Canada – clocking up the miles virtually – in his hometown of Rockhampton, in central Queensland.

A man with brown hair and brown, ginger beard wearing a pink shirt, shorts and pink and black tights running on the road.
Williams took just under five years to complete a virtual lap around Australia by competing in running events like the annual Pink Ribbon Run.(Supplied: Rhys Williams)

“It’s a great motivator. Every run you do moves your little person around the map. I’m currently halfway around Canada,” he said.

Run The World founder and keen runner Travis Ireland said he launched the program in 2014 as a “hobby” and now had created more than 127,000km of maps of runs around the globe.

Mr Ireland said it provided a long-term goal to runners of all abilities like Mr Williams.

A man standing in front of a marquee wearing a pink and black running shirt and blue and white hat.
Travis Ireland’s hobby project has become a “great motivator”.(Supplied: Run the World)

“Rhys is one of those runners that I came across just through his passion and not just passion for running but passion for community events,” Ireland said.

“I’ve seen him at marathons and got to touch the beard in real life and we’ve done a couple of events together.”

A man with a brown, ginger beard, running and wearing an army style cap and white running singlet.
Williams is training for a gruelling 100km trail run in April.(Supplied: Rhys Williams)

Williams said he was preparing to contest a 100km trail run in April and, as for the rest of 2024, any other running events that stroked his interest.

“And strokes the beard.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *