As the last hours of January 25 tick away here on the West Coast, it’s time to give a shout out to the most heralded runner in American history, Steve Prefontaine. He would have turned 60 years old today.
Like many other runners who have come through the high school ranks since the two Pre movies came out, the Oregon legend has inspired me to train harder and race tougher. I first came upon the name Steve Prefontaine my sophomore year of high school when I watched a YouTube clip of the 1972 Olympic Trials 5k from “Without Limits.” I’ve embedded the video below. I must have watched that video a hundred times, several times on nights before races.
Over the years I’ve learned more and more about the person that Pre was. From books like Tom Jordan’s “Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend” and “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon” by Kenny Moore I discovered the intricacies of the man behind the legend. When I visited Eugene this summer, Pre’s impact on the town became even more apparent as he has more than just a trail and an international track meet named in his honor, but a legacy he’s left behind.
More about Prefontaine’s life is revealed this week by a series of articles from TrackFocus.com. Doug Binder has interviewed a number of close friends and family to tell some of Pre’s amazing stories. My personal favorite was the story told by former UO runner Steve Bence about Pre’s involvement in a race during the Civil War football game that exemplified his tremendous competitive fire. I strongly encourage all to read Binder’s “Pre Week” series here.
PRE 5-30-75 R.I.P.