Sports Illustrated recently published an article entitled "Why Pre Still Matters." It was an inspiring piece that led me to read Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan. I had always heard Pre mentioned in running circles and seen the quotes and posters, but I never really took the time to find out who he was and why he is part of American running lore and legend.
Many people know that "Pre" died before his time at the young age of 24. In his short running career he set 15 American records at every distance from two miles through 10,000 meters. He was known for a cut-throat, blood and guts style of running that tested the will of his competitors and thrilled spectators.
Pre was a cocky, confident American runner who was something akin to James Dean in terms of charisma. Steve was not one to shy away from late nights, parties or socializing. He also worked as hard, if not harder, than anyone else when it came to training and pushing himself. Work hard, play hard.
Pre sought to improve his performance by learning from his competition both here and abroad. He seemed to be particularly fond of the Finnish distance runners who dominated the 1970s. Frustrated with amateur running support and the AAU, he encouraged reform and helped to create new programs for elite runners. His desire to be the best fueled a competitive fire that burned hot and produced results that inspired a generation of new runners- myself included.
Pre never stopped pushing. He was never satisfied. He gave everything he had and left it all on the track. He continues to inspire and he will always matter for that very reason.