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Gary Purpura runs the Eastern Oregon Half-Marathon for 46th time

“Virtual” run inspires others to take part

Gary Purpura first came to Spray when he was 19 years old in the early 1970s. “In the summers I would take a drive and look for work,” says Mr. Purpura who now owns the brokerage firm Liberty Capital in Portland.

On one drive, Gary saw a “help wanted” sign for farm workers. It paid $20 a day with room and board. Gary went to work for Bud and Cecilia Reed, bucking bales outside of Spray. That year, he learned of the Eastern Oregon Half Marathon and Spray Rodeo and ran the half-marathon for the first time.

This year, Gary returned to run the half-marathon for the 46th time. He did it alone, with the help from a friend who chalked the course.

“It was a crowd of one at the finish line,” Mr. Purpura says with a laugh.

Over the years, Gary has won the Eastern Oregon Half-Marathon five times and holds the fastest run at 1 hour, six minutes and 35 seconds.

“The run is a favorite time for me,” says Mr. Purpura.

Despite the cancellation of the half-marathon and Spray Rodeo due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gary was not going to miss out.

“I felt out of sorts not having people to talk to,” he said. “At the finish line I kept looking south, thinking maybe the parade would start.”

– Gary Purpura

“Spray is such a special place,” he says. Looking forward to the race all year long, Gary decided to make the trip.

While Gary was alone on the run from Service Creek to Spray, others joined in for a “Virtual” Eastern Oregon Half-Marathon that was organized on social media.

Runners like Jennifer Rankin in New York, Christina Moke-Thompson in San Diego, Holly Adams in Condon and many others ran the 13.6 miles to commemorate the event. 

Mr. Parpura says that he is happy to see people doing the half-marathon virtually but is looking forward to next year.

“I felt out of sorts not having people to talk to,” he said. “At the finish line I kept looking south, thinking maybe the parade would start.”

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