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 Steve Prefontaine, 30 Years Later
Submitted by Rickshaw :: Sun Jan 02, 2005 11:14 pm
If you've been running for any time at all, you've probably heard of Steve Prefontaine. Even now, decades after his death in a car accident at the age of 24, he is still probably the world's best known track athlete, having become an enduring and inspiring legend. 2005 marks the 30th anniversary of Pre's death, and so it seems fitting to look back at who he was and why he's still so popular today.

Prefontaine showed tremendous promise from the very start. Growing up in Coos Bay, Oregon, he demolished his high school competition. As a high school senior, he set a new American record of 8:48.4 for two miles, grabbing the attention of collegiate scouts around the country. Pre ultimately selected to stay near home at the Univesity of Oregon, where he enrolled in the fall of 1969, helping to establish the reputation for distance running that it still has today.

As a collegiate runner, Prefontaine wasted little time showing what he was capable of. During four years at the Univesity of Oregon, he won an astonishing seven NCAA titles: three in cross-country and four on the track, where he specialized in the 3 mile and 5K. His talents weren't limited to just a single distance, though-- he dominated the entire middle distance spectrum. For five years, no American runner beat Pre at any distance over a mile. Eventually he held the American record at every distance between 2000 and 10000 meters and between 2 miles and 6 miles.

Pre's popularity matched his race success, attracting a following rarely seen by any track athlete. It was the height of the 1970's running boom, and Steve Prefontaine was an American hero. As an Oregon freshman, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Throngs of fans chanting "Pre!" defeaned everyone at races. He was widely popular even among people who didn't follow running at all. When he died in a car accident in 1975, the world was shocked.

More information about Prefontaine's biography and accomplishments can be found at these sites:

University of Oregon
Steve Bence's Pre Site

Running fans may enjoy reading Pre's biography or watching one of the several movies about his life:

Without Limits - A "big-budget" 1998 movie starring Billy Crudup and Donald Sutherland with great race scenes
Prefontaine - A 1997 movie staring Jared Leto, arguably not as well done as Without Limits
Fire on the Track - A 1995 documentary about Pre, including race footage and interviews with teammates, coaches, family and friends.
Pre - A popular biography by a Track & Field News writer, also includes notes about Prefontaine by runners including Alberto Salazar, Mary Slaney and Frank Shorter.


Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 33

Re: Steve Prefontaine, 30 Years Later Posted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 10:41 pm 

I saw "Without Limits" and thought it was enjoyable, although I don't think it made me into a big Prefontaine fan. Didn't exactly portray him in the kindest of lights (as a person... of course he was a great runner).

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