This post is dedicated to arguably the greatest American distance runner of all time in Steve Prefontaine.
This weekend, the Prefontaine Classic (Track And Field) will be held in Eugene, Oregon at Hayward Field, home of the University Of Oregon. Ironically, this coming Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Steve Prefontaine's death. It happened early on the morning of May 30, 1975 when Prefontaine's car, an MGB crashed and rolled over pinning him underneath. There's been a lot of discussion regarding the death and I'm not here to post about it. It's about his life and how his inspiration helped get me into a long running career that still goes on today.
In my first year running at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, my track and field distance running teammates talked a lot about him. We would read "the green sheet." That was known as the San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Green. We saw how good this runner was from his cross country exploits to what he did on the track at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon. In the P.E. locker room, we would see updates on all the high school greats in that era and Prefontaine was on it constantly!
In my second year of running on the roads (1972), we would hear often in the papers what Pre would do in a specific track meet. That year, the duel with George Young at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Eugene and the Summer Olympics in Munich were the greatest races I saw. Though Pre finished fourth and missing a medal, he decided to make the 5000 meters a race by taking the lead in the last mile of the event! To this day, I thought it was the greatest distance race I've ever seen.
Prefontaine helped make a shoe company known as Nike what it is today. It was back in 1975/1976 when I bought my first pair of Nike's which were called the Nike Elite. Prior to that I was wearing the Adidas SL72 which were okay. The Elite was actually better because it hugged the foot better.
Steve Prefontaine along with Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter and Jim Ryun were major reasons for the running boom in the 1970s. Those of us who began running in this era and for that matter, today should be thankful.