On this day in 1951, one of the most iconic runners in North American history was born. Steve “Pre” Prefontaine from Coos Bay, Ore., became one of the biggest icons in the sport during his time at the University of Oregon in the 70s, where he held seven American records from the 2,000m to the 10,000m.
Today Prefontaine would have been 72, but his life was cut short on May 30, 1975, when he died in a car accident in Eugene, Ore. He was 24 at his death.
Prefontaine competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and was preparing for the 1976 Olympics with the Oregon Track Club at the time of his death.
The American distance runner will be always remembered for his raw talent, racing style, iconic moustache and motivational quotes.
Pre’s race tactics were often bold, running hard from the gun instead of having a sit-and-kick mentality. That sort of race mentality is evident in some of his most memorable quotes, which are as follows:
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into an exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”
“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 than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.”
“Somebody may beat me, but they’re going to have to bleed to do it.”
“I don’t just go out there and run. I like to give people watching something exciting.”
After his death, three movies were later released based on his storied career: Without Limits, Prefontaine, and Fire on the Track.
Happy 72nd Birthday Pre!