If someone says, ‘Hey, I ran 100 miles this week. How far did you run?’ Ignore him! What the hell difference does it make? The magic is in the man, not the 100 miles...’ -Bill Bowerman, former Coach of the Oregon and U.S. Olympic track teams, inventor of the waffle sole and one of the founders of Nike.
Yesterday was a big day for me, for I was able to watch a wonderful movie in HBO and the title, Without Limits – a true to life story of Steve Prefontaine, a running legend and 1972 Olympian.
Without Limits was produced by Tom Cruise and told from the point of view of Bill Bowerman with Dellinger as a minor character and Mary Marckx, who was a previous girlfriend of Prefontaine while at Oregon. Bowerman is played by Donald Sutherland and is given guru status.
Steve Roland “Pre” Prefontaine (January 25, 1951 – May 30, 1975) was an American middle and long-distance runner. Prefontaine helped inspire the “running boom” in the 1970s along with contemporaries Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. Born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon, Prefontaine was primarily a long-distance runner who once held the American record in the seven distance track events from the 2000 meters to the 10,000 meters.
|1,500 meters||3:38.1||28 June 1973||Helsinki, Finland |
|2,000 meters||5:01.4||9 May, 1975||Coos Bay, Oregon|
|3,000 meters||7:42.6||2 July, 1974||Milan, Italy|
|5,000 meters||13:21.87||26 June 1974||Helsinki, Finland|
|10,000 meters||27:43.6||27 April 1974||Eugene, Oregon|
|1-mile (1.6 km)||3:54.6||20 June 1973||Eugene, Oregon|
|2 miles (3.2 km)||8:18.29||18 July 1974|
|3 miles (4.8 km)||12:51.4||8 June 1974||Eugene, Oregon|
|6 miles (9.7 km)||26:51.8||27 April 1974|
|5000 meters (H.S.)||13:52.6||1969|
On May 30, 1975, returning from a party and after dropping off a friend and distance champion Frank Shorter, Prefontaine was driving down Skyline Boulevard, east of the University of Oregon campus near Hendricks Park, when he swerved his 1973 MGB convertible left to avoid crashing into an oncoming car and hit a rock wall along the side of the street. The overturned car trapped Prefontaine underneath it. The first witness on the scene, who lived nearby, heard two cars, and then a crash. When he ran outside he was almost run over by the second car. The witness found Prefontaine flat on his back, still alive but pinned beneath the wreck. After attempting to lift the vehicle, the witness ran to get help. By the time he returned with others, the weight of the car had crushed Prefontaine’s chest, killing him.
The Eugene Register-Guard called his death “the end of an era”. By the time of his death, Prefontaine was a popular athlete who, along with Frank Shorter and Bill Bowerman, is credited with sparking the running boom of the 1970s. His life story has been detailed in two films, 1997‘s Prefontaine and 1998‘s Without Limits, as well as the documentary “Fire on the Track”. An annual track event, the Pre Classic, has been held in his honor since 1975.
By the time of his death, Prefontaine held every American track and field record from the 2,000 to the 10,000 meters. Over his career, he won 120 of the 153 races he ran (78 percent). Prefontaine liked to say, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift.”
The memorial features a plaque with a picture of Prefontaine that reads:
|“||For your dedication and loyalty
To your principles and beliefs…
For your love, warmth, and friendship
For your family and friends…
You are missed by so many
And you will never be forgotten…
In Prefontaine’s hometown of Coos Bay, there is the Prefontaine Memorial, featuring a relief of his face, records, and date of birth located at the Coos Bay Visitor Center.
Each year, on the 3rd Saturday of September, over 1000 runners engage in the Prefontaine Memorial Run, a 10k run honoring his accomplishments.
In 1983, Prefontaine was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, where several exhibits showcase his shoes, shirts, and other memorabilia. Nike used video footage in a commercial titled “Pre Lives”, advertising his spirit for their product. On the thirtieth anniversary of his death, Nike placed a memorial in Sports Illustrated, and aired a television commercial in his honor. -wikipedia
I cannot control my emotion when his untimely death came. He’s only 24 and at the very peak of his career, preparing for another Olympics. He was well loved by his fans and I admired him most when he lost in the 1972 Olympics placing only 4th, and he was about to give up his love for running, when Bowermann, his coach pressed him to continue…
Let us not forget this man, though he died more than 30 years ago,he remains an icon to many.
God be Praised!