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.
Pre died on May 30, 1975 in Eugene, Ore. after flipping his MG convertible on Skyline Boulevard. He was 24.
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. One of his most notable features was 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.