Who Do You Finish the Run For?November 2, 2021
David Forster Jr.’s final run began like any other ordinary June evening, as he set out on a “short” eight-mile route while training for the Chicago Marathon. With only six blocks to go before home, David collapsed. It was June 2016.
His mother Sandy, the owner of Minneapolis-based Little Pepper Promotions, describes her son as always being “the nice kid who stood in the back of pictures.” But after his passing, they soon began to learn he was also a quiet leader. “David affected people’s lives more than any of us realized,” she says.
David was the kind of person who paused during his busy days to truly appreciate the small things. On his phone, there were photos of sunsets he’d stopped to enjoy while out on a run. A group of David’s running buddies wanted to do the same, pause for a moment and appreciate the remarkable friend they’d known. Sandy recalls how they said, “We want to finish that run for David.”
Initially, they planned to invite close family and friends to join them on the route David never got a chance to complete. “What we originally thought would be a small group ended up being 125 people,” Sandy remembers.
What started as a small moment to honor her son’s memory has blossomed into a yearly event, a place for people to “Finish the Run” in memory of David, other loved ones, and to be surrounded by support and positivity. Every year they have approximately 600 people gather for the 5k “Finish the Run.” After the run, everyone is invited to a neighborhood brewery David used to frequent, where cheap beer and free laughs abound.
The race has connected the community in ways Sandy could have never imagined. “We’ve heard from people that even though hundreds of people are gathering, it feels like family and you begin to realize all the connections we have.” People wear their Finish the Run shirts (always printed on the District® Very Important Tee®) all across the globe. Sandy points out, “We’ll hear stories of someone running on a beach in Florida and someone stops them to ask ‘How do you know the Forsters?’”
With the money raised, the Forster family has started scholarships for both high school and college students who may wish to participate in an entrepreneurial program that David was a member of. Sandy adds, “We also have given to organizations such as Still Kickin’, Girls on the Run, and both of David’s running teams.”
When David passed, his funeral filled Minneapolis’ Basilica of St. Mary, something that stunned even those closest to him. “We had no idea the kind of impact he’d had,” Sandy says. “One young man let me know David helped him during a really challenging time and helped him not take his own life. We had no idea.”
As the years pass, what started as a lot of David’s younger friends has evolved into a family affair, with new partners, dogs and even strollers appearing. David’s former running coaches from high school and college have commented on the ways everyone is growing up, with the annual run helping them mark time.
“We have Who will you finish the run for? written on participant’s racing bibs and on the backs of their t-shirts,” Sandy says, pointing out that many people share the memories on social media. It’s a phrase that has inspired many to finish their own run, to support people in their lives who may need help crossing a finish line, and to live each day in the same heartfelt way David lived his life.