Passing the baton

Finish the Run 5K honors the spirit of late runner and Hopkins alum David Forster

To elite marathon runner and Hopkins alum David Forster, it didn’t matter how long it took to run 26.2 miles.

On June 18, 2016, Forster ran his fourth marathon, Grandma’s in Duluth, alongside fiancé Abby Hansen. He wasn’t racing to beat his personal best time of 2 hours, 37 minutes, but instead so Hansen could conquer her first-ever marathon.

To Forster, it wasn’t all about the time—but his time ended too soon.

A mere six days later, Forster, 27, collapsed and died toward the end of a 10-mile training run for the upcoming Chicago Marathon.

His death came as a complete shock to everyone in his life. The culprit, acute lymphocytic myocarditis, is a rare heart virus that can be asymptomatic.

“He was probably the healthiest person we knew,” said his mother, Sandy Forster.

In addition to his health, David was also at “sweet spot” in other aspects of life at the time of his passing. He was engaged to be married on New Year’s Eve to his first true love, had bought a house the year before and was working side-by-side with his mom at her promotional branding business.

“He was about as happy as really he’s ever been,” his father, Dave Forster, reflected. “Everything was kind of aligning for him.”

Now, a little more than a year later, Dave and Sandy have planned the Finish the Run 5K Walk/Run in David’s honor.

The event starts at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 10. Registration is $30. Proceeds will benefit two organizations, Girls on the Run and Bolder Options, both of which encourage youth to be active.

The 5K begins at Boom Island Park in northeast Minneapolis and will take participants along both sides of the Mississippi River and across the Stone Arch Bridge.

Finish the Run will trace part of the route that David was running right before he collapsed.

The event, although in its second year, will be the first of its kind. Last year, Forster’s family and friends went on an informal walk/run in his honor. This year,

Forster’s loved ones extend the invitation to all runners.

“The more, the merrier,” Dave said. “That’s how David would want anything he was a part of.”

The Forsters hope people see the run as not only a memorial, but also as an event that promotes including everyone, making subtle yet positive impacts in others’ lives and living one’s own life with intention—ideals that the Forsters say their son encompassed in his everyday life quite effortlessly, just by being himself.

“[It’s] not only to honor David, but to try to build awareness for how he lived his life, so others can be more conscious and intentional for how they live their lives,” Sandy said.

When David ran as a Royal for Hopkins’ cross-country team, and later for St. John’s University, the Forsters say he was known as a quiet leader, one who encouraged and supported his fellow runners.

But his effect on others reached well beyond his teammates. His parents hadn’t realized just how many until more than 2,000 people attended his funeral, and person after person approached them with stories of how he had touched their lives in small ways.

The Forsters said they were awestruck and humbled by the outpouring of love. Hearing countless stories about David’s subtle yet meaningful impact on others’ lives was a driving factor in the Forsters’ decision to host an official 5K in his honor.

“After hearing all these inspiring stories of how he inspired others, we got this community feeling and spirit and support, and decided to do something in that name,” Dave said.

The Forsters, who live in Minnetonka and are highly involved in the Hopkins Schools system, where their three sons attended, appreciated the community support in addition to the support from family and friends.

“Between the Hopkins community and St. John’s/St. Ben’s college community that David was a part of, those communities continued to support our family. That’s really important to us,” said Sandy, a former Hopkins Schools board member.

The Forsters hope to create this welcoming sense of community at Finish the Run.

“He was the one who brought people together time and time again. He just did it because that was how he operated,” Sandy said. “And now he’s bringing all of us together on Sept. 10th.”

Participants can register at finishtherun.com.

David Forster ran for St. John’s University. During junior high and high school, he ran for the Hopkins Royals. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Forster) A mere six days before his death, David Forster ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth with fiancé Abby Hansen. It was Hansen’s first-ever marathon. “They were doing it together for her to accomplish that,” father Dave Forster said. Indeed, she did. The couple crossed the finish line holding hands. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Forster) The whole Forster family poses together. From left: brother Max, father Dave, brother Sam, mother Sandy, honorary “fourth” son Jon Chhay and David. “[David’s younger brothers] picked up running. They’ve actually run the Twin Cities 10-mile and Grandma’s half marathon to honor their brother,” Sandy said. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Forster) David Forster (middle) carried a friend’s shoe while running the Portland Marathon in 2015. “As the story goes, he went to cross the finish line with one [friend], then turned and ran back to get one of the others who was lagging behind,” his mother Sandy Forster recounted. “Do you ever hear about that? Running backwards in a marathon to help your friends.” (Photo courtesy of Sandy Forster)
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David Forster (middle) carried a friend’s shoe while running the Portland Marathon in 2015. “As the story goes, he went to cross the finish line with one [friend], then turned and ran back to get one of the others who was lagging behind,” his mother Sandy Forster recounted. “Do you ever hear about that? Running backwards in a marathon to help your friends.” (Photo courtesy of Sandy Forster)

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