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If Steve Prefontaine had not discovered the gift to run long distances during physical education classes while in junior high in Coos Bay, Oregon, the world would never have witnessed the unlimited talent and undeniable passion and drive of the long-distance runner who would simply become known to millions as “Pre.”

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”

Pre had guts, loads of it, and every race was a throw-down-the-gauntlet challenge to his competitors that the only way to defeat him was to have more guts than him. He didn’t hang back and wait for the last lap to kick for the win, he lead from the front, forcing the pace, making the other guy hurt. He made his only appearance at the Summer Olympics in Munich, 1972. In the 5000m he didn’t want to be left behind and pushed the pace against LasseViren, the Finnish distance runner. Although he lost out to LasseViren for the bronze, he showed great courage and performed well.

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“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.”

Pre was the only runner who could beat him. Pre was a University of Oregon Cross-Country champion. He won three NCAA Cross-Country titles and never lost an NCAA race at 6 miles/10000m. Pre held the American record at every distance, 2000m to 10000m, for a period. Pre did not just fight on the track; he also fought off it, railing against amateur sports establishments that believed runners could not make a living by their talents.

“Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”

Pre was the anti-culture rebel, the rock star of the 1970s running boom, his shaggy brown hair and rakish mustache. Hayward Field was the home of the University of Oregon track teams and the heartland of American track and track. Pre raced down the track in pursuit of yet another victory. His fans chanted his name loudly. Even his foes showed their respect, wearing T-shirts reading ‘Stop Pre.’

“My philosophy is that I’m an artist. I do not use a paint brush or a digital camera to perform art. I perform with my body. Instead of exhibiting my art in a museum or a book or on canvas, I exhibit my art in front of the multitudes.”

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We won’t know what Pre might have looked like, how bright his star was in Montreal in 1976 and how many medals he may had won during those games. Pre lost control and crashed his 1973 MGB convertible as he drove to a party for Finnish runners who were competing in the Hayward Field meet. Prefontaine was too young, and the crash thegoneapp.com took him from the worlds of running before he could reach his full potential.

“When people go to a track meet, they’re looking for something, a world record, something that hasn’t been done before. People are focused on one thing and you get this magnetic energy. I get really excited about it. It makes me want even more to compete. It makes it all worthwhile, all the hours of hard work.”

Pre’s devil-may care passion to lead from front and the lingering doubt of what could have been made him one of the most iconic figures of the seventies great running explosion that brought running into mainstream American society. Running boom that gave rise to the great marathons today, and has impacted the lives of millions.

Pre lives on with each mile, every race completed, and every mile run. These five quotes still hold great meaning for us today.

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