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18-time Pikes Peak Marathon finisher Phil Foster remembered as family man, friend of the running community

Sharon Greenbaum will remember her father, Phil Foster, as a “smart and good-hearted rebel,” a dedicated family man, a volunteer for the Pikes Peak Road Runners, and a stubborn runner who competed in the Pikes Peak Marathon until old age forced him to the sidelines.

Born and raised in Colorado Springs, Phil Foster died on Dec. 5. He was 82. Family and friends gathered on Friday to pay their respects and tell stories about a longtime member of the running community.

Foster completed the Pikes Peak Marathon 18 times and ran the Ascent once in a 26-year span, including a streak of seven-consecutive marathons. At age 72, he finished his last marathon (2006) in 9 hours, 58 minutes 29 seconds, just under the 10-hour time limit.

Foster loved Pikes Peak, his fellow runners and even the wildlife, which seemed to be fond of him as well.

“One time a marmot got in the back of his truck and he made all the way home before he knew,” Sharon said. “He’d driven to the top of Pikes Peak. We still don’t know how it happened, but Dad drove back and let it go.”

Foster attended Colorado Springs High School and developed a knack for mechanical work, which led him to a 12-year career in the Air Force. He served as a navigator during the Korean War.

“After the Air Force, he bought a four-passenger plane and built another one in the garage,” Sharon said. “He was always working with his hands. He managed a Sears catalog department for a while, but white-collar jobs were not for my dad. He eventually made his living buying old houses and fixing them up and renting, or selling them.”

Foster is survived by his wife of 58 years, Julie; three children and four grandchildren.

Foster loved sports and he always provided support for Sharon. In fact, it was Sharon who introduced Foster to the idea of running.

“I started running because I got cut from all of the other sports teams,” Sharon says. “I wasn’t old enough to drive, yet, so I asked Dad to take be to the Nielson Challenge (a Pikes Peak Road Runner event then known as the 2-Mile Challenge.) I think he thought that as long as he was driving me there he’d run, too.”

Foster was a founder of the Pikes Peaak Road Runners' long-running Winter Series. He also served as an assistant girls track coach at Air Academy High School, where he coached Sharon.

< Foster, white cap, front row, and the Air Academy girls track team

“He had a tremendous mind for it (coaching),” said Randy Barringer, a longtime high school track coach who hired Foster. “I knew about his work with the distance runners. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for you. None of the high schools had a clock for cross country meets, so we’d call the Pikes Peak Road Runners, and it was usually Phil who would come down and time the meets."

Foster was never fast, but he was tough. He once fell and knocked himself unconscious on the descent during the Pikes Peak Marathon. Sharon said he didn’t regain consciousness until the next day. But that didn’t stop him. He continued to run, and loved doing training runs to the top of Pikes Peak and back with his kids.

He was diagnosed with skin cancer before his last run on Pikes Peak and the disease gradually spread over the years. “The doctors told us they would not be able to keep up with cutting out the cancers as quickly as it was spreading, so we kind of knew it was going to be hard,” Sharon said.

He died at the Center at Centennial rehabilitation facility. Sharon said her father was scheduled to return home for hospice care, but passed away four days before being discharged.

“I think he knew it was just time,” she said.

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