#flashbackfriday Black Tuesday, Sept 3 1974 Steve Prefontaine runs a sub-4 mile amidst heavy black smoke caused by controlled burns in the Lane County Area. Pre was advised to abandon the sub4 attempt but didn't want to let down the ~1000 Eugene fans that came out to watch. Pre would suffer from smoke induced coughing and lung damage for months post-race and later, along with other OTC athletes helped fight the farm lobby that sought to repeal the ban on open field burning. #prelives #sweatergame
Steve “Pre” Prefontaine, one of the most memorable runners in U.S. track and field history, died in a car accident on May 30, 1975. He was 24.
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Born Jan. 25, 1951, Prefontaine was a standout runner with the University of Oregon and at one point in his young career he held seven American records from the 2,000m to the 10,000m.
On May 30, 1975, he flipped his MG convertible on Skyline Boulevard in Eugene.
We lost Pre 41 years ago today.
— Prefontaine Classic (@nikepreclassic) May 30, 2016
A star high school athlete from Coos Bay, Ore., Pre went on to represent the United States at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich where he would finish fourth in the men’s 5,000m, an event won by Finland’s Lasse Virén. Footage from that race can be found below:
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The movies Without Limits, Prefontaine and Fire on the Track were later released, all three of which are based off his storied career. His notable features included his long hair and prominent mustache.
Pre’s race tactics were often bold, running hard from the gun instead of 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 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.
Each year, Hayward Field hosts the Prefontaine Classic, one of the most notable races in international athletics. Cam Levins set the Canadian 10,000m record at that very race in 2015 running 27:07.51 at the track that Pre helped make famous.
The 2016 Prefontaine Classic took place this past weekend and was highlighted by a pair of Canadian records courtesy of 5,000m runner Mo Ahmed and women’s 3,000m steeplechase athlete Gen Lalonde.