Why keep writing all the books and essays about Americas greatest running legend, Prefontaine? Why can’t we let Pre simply die? I would imagine these questions come up with many not associated with running. With this I hope to answer those questions.
Many people have never heard of the person Steve Prefontaine. These people are not ignorant; they just have not followed America’s distance running. In distance running Prefontaine, better known as just Pre, is truly a LEGEND. The people that knew Pre could see the passion and desire in everything that he did.
Pre was born in Coos Bay, Oregon. When Pre was young he loved to play all sports. He was a gifted athlete from the beginning. His only problem was that he was smaller than the other kids his age. When he got into Junior High School he was directed towards running because of his size factor. Prefontaine loved the sport and decided to run cross-country at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay. When track season came around, Steve ran the distance races for his team. After losing one particular race he promised that he would not lose another in his high school career. Prefontaine did just that, he didn’t lose a single cross country or track race including the state championships.
Accomplishing this task allowed Pre to go to college. He earned himself a full scholarship to the University of Oregon. The University is located in Eugene, Oregon not far from Coos Bay where he grew up as a child. While at Oregon, Pre ran as their number one runner from freshman year all the way through his senior year. Pre set numerous National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) records.
Ever since sixth grade I?ve been running long distance races but not until my freshman year did I learn about the legend of Pre. He has inspired my teammates and myself to give it all we have and to run a race not to see who?s the fastest but to see who?s got the most guts. Steve said a version of that in one of his great speeches. Any race he ran was better than I have ever done and better than I will ever do but I still strive toward his accomplishments and give everything I have.
Every race that I have run, he is in my thoughts and I strive and strive until I give it all I?ve got and that is never enough. I can always run a good race but it is most likely not with all my strength and guts. Steve always gave everything he had, in every race he ever ran. An example of that is when he had an injury prior to the race on his leg. With the throbbing pain, he finished first and even got one of his better times. That is every runner?s goal; to go all out every time, no matter what?s trying to hold you back.
On the other hand, there’s only one thing I remember about Pre?s high school times. It was when Pre was a sophomore in high school. He ran the 2-mile in 10:20, not at all unusual for a distance runner of that age — in fact, something we could attain ourselves. When he was a senior in high school, he ran the same distance in 8:41.7, a national record. In college, his record was even more phenomenal, and at the time of his death he held every American record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters.
Much is made of Steve Prefontaine’s talent. There was no small amount of that. He had an incredible aerobic capacity. He had an incredible physical ability to train hard, recover — and then race much, much harder. But there was more — for talent alone cannot ensure success in any endeavor. He is the man who inspired Nike to develop athletic shoes, although I?m sure he wouldn?t support their current slogan, ?Just Do It.? To merely do is not nearly enough; at least not enough for Steve Prefontaine. Pre was a ferocious competitor. He hated to not lead. He never let go. Many have described Pre after a race as a near-wreck. In trashing his competitors, it is said that he rarely failed to trash himself in the process — it’s just that everyone else dropped first.
Off the track, Pre could be just as ferocious — fighting for the rights of athletes, battling the AAU and excoriating the Willamette Valley field burners that he felt threatened for his health and the health of others.
Pre?s life came to a tragic end when he drank too much at a party celebrating his victory. He had tried to drive home while under the influence of the alcohol and flipped several times hitting a boulder. It was his only other loss and his worst defeat. He couldn?t fight it out like he did on the track. He was dying and no one could save him. He lost his last race in life.
Steve Prefontaine is America’s Greatest Distance Runner. More than twenty years after his tragic death, he continues to inspire distance runners across the nation with his impressive times, great quotes, and unique running ability.
Let Pre die?
Still don’t think he’s that great? Check out some of his personal bests:
"Some people create with words, or with music, or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, "I’ve never seen anyone run like that before." It’s more then just a race; it’s a style. It’s doing something better then anyone else. It’s being creative."