Pastor running 50 miles today for 50th birthday

Run will raise funds, raise awareness of sex trafficking

Mark Forstrom will run 50 miles today to celebrate his 50th birthday and raise money for a cause he believes in — ending sex trafficking. (Mark Forstrom)
Mark Forstrom will run 50 miles today to celebrate his 50th birthday and raise money for a cause he believes in — ending sex trafficking. (Mark Forstrom)

For his 50th birthday, Cedar Rapids pastor Mark Forstrom isn’t just eating cake.

He’s attempting a 50-mile run.

Today, Forstrom will run the Cedar Valley Nature Trail between Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids. He was to start at 6:30 this morning and plans to end at 7:30 p.m. at New Covenant Bible Church, 3090 N. Center Point Rd., in Cedar Rapids, where he is the high school pastor.

His goal is to raise awareness and money to combat sex trafficking in Nepal.

“For a couple of years I’ve been thinking it would be neat to run 50 miles for my 50th birthday,” he said. “Then I thought it would be neat to do it for a higher purpose than just defying my age.”

He has completed nine marathons in the past but has never attempted a run this long. He said he’s been training the same way he does for marathon runs.

“You just put in the miles and get your body used to it. My longest run was 23 miles,” he said. “Luckily it’s not a race. I can take breaks. I’m not going to kill myself; I just have to cover the miles.”

A friend will be biking along with him, pulling a trailer with refreshments and offering moral support. He has motivation to keep going — people have pledged money for each mile he completes. He’ll post updates on his mileage on his blog as he goes. At the end of the day, he will greet friends and supporters at a birthday party at the church.

He said he became interested in the issue of sex trafficking after a speaker visited his church and began to do more research.

“Those girls are basically kidnapped and sold as sex slaves,” he said. “If a person knows anything about sex trafficking, it’s just one of those horrible injustices. It’s modern day slavery.”

Money raised from his run will be donated to non-profit faith-based Tiny Hands International. Or, those who would prefer to donate to a secular group can instead direct their money to the organization ABC Nepal.

Forstrom said he thought running 50 miles would be a more effective raise awareness than simply talking about why he believes in Tiny Hand’s mission.

“I’m a horrible salesperson,” he said. “A challenge like this is a way for me to sacrifice physically and allow others to jump on board and participate with me through their pledges.”

It also helps that he is passionate about running.

“It lines up with my own personality and my love for running,” he said. “It’s a challenge that sounds intriguing to me.”

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