“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift.”
- Steve Prefontaine
Next week marks the 37th anniversary of the death of Steve Prefontaine at the peak of his running career.
“Pre” is remembered as one of America’s greatest distance runners, although he never fully realized his potential. When his life ended tragically in 1975, he held every American record from the 2,000 to the 10,000 meters. From his record-breaking performances in high school through his years at the University of Oregon and beyond, Prefontaine won 119 of 151 outdoor races. His rare losses were typically run with the aggressiveness he was known for, including his memorable fourth-place finish in the 5000 meter final at the 1972 Olympics.
“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see
who has the most guts.”
During that time, Prefontaine was one of the first to speak out for athlete’s rights against the Amateur Athletic Union which disbanded after his death. Though he has been dead for over thirty years, his legacy is alive and well. In the last decade alone, a documentary, two Hollywood movies, and a biography have paid tribute to this talented, cocky, determined runner who influenced many on and off the track.
Olympian and author Jeff Galloway put it well when he wrote me via e-mail: “Thousands of elite U.S. athletes have come and gone but none have exuded the excitement of Pre. He was a good friend and inspired all of us to do our best.”
I will have more on Steve Prefontaine in the coming days.