Local runner attempts 637th race win

Sammy VanDenBurg (white shirt on the left) starts the Shamrock Run on Saturday. He tried to win his 637th race since high school. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Central Point, Ore. - In Central Point on Saturday, those feeling particularly lucky came out for the Shamrock Run. Sammy VanDenBurg marked this race specially on his calendar this year.

"This five miler, I've never come in first place in my age group here," VanDenBurg said.

At the race, he felt a little extra motivation. He has won 636 races since he started running in elementary school. Now, he's 79 years old and still putting one foot in front of the other.

"I run because I do it well and I take it very seriously," VanDenBurg said. "It keeps me in shape. There's not that many 80 year old guys out there."

To add even more motivation to win, one of Sammy's former competitors directs the Shamrock Run and has done so since it started over 30 years ago.

"Because we were so competitive with each other, you know it was an elation filled thing for either one of us to beat the other one," Michael Barrett said. "He was most normally ahead of me."

When the race started, Sammy took off in the middle of the pack.

Just under an hour later, he finished, but, unfortunately, he will have to try again next year.

"I got second today, you have got to be kidding me," VanDenBurg said.

He still reached his goal of running those five miles under an hour. The icing on the cake, though, Sunday is Sammy's 80th birthday so the crowd sang to him.

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