I first heard of Steve Prefontaine about five or six years ago before the thought of completing an endurance event ever came into my mind. Prefontaine achieved acclaim as a middle distance runner in the early 1970’s. Over the course of his running career Prefontaine won 120 of the 153 (78%) races he competed in.
Originally from Coos Bay, Oregon Prefontaine’s ethic and approach to running was unorthodox but often effective. Popularly known as “Pre”, his approach was to run to push the pace of other athletes beyond the point they were able to keep up. “I am going to work so that it’s a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I’m the only one that can win it.”
In the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, Pre assumed lead of the 5,000m race with approximately 1500m to go and dramatically increased the pace of the race. Pre held the lead until the last 150m of the race and eventually finished fourth and off the podium. It was a difficult lesson for Pre to learn but ultimately he came to understand how he had to run the race. Pre could apply his technique of outpacing others by running intervals that he could maintain but that were faster and outside the comfort zone of other runners with whom he’d be competing against.
Training for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, Pre had conditioned himself to set a new record for the 5,000m distance. Sadly, Pre was killed in a car accident in May 1975 after he swerved to miss an on coming vehicle.
Several movies have been made about Steve Prefontaine and he he has given us many famous quotes. My favourite is in the image above “to give anything but your best, is to sacrifice the gift”. This quotation speaks to me in my athletic, professional, and personal pursuits. Prefontaine’s ambition and focus serve as an inspiration to me. It is doubtful that I will ever win a competitive race that I am competing in but to go out every day and try to give my best, well, that leads me to another Prefontaine quote:
“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.”