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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Prefontaine’

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 style.  It’s doing something better than anyone else.  It’s being creative.
 

—  Steve Prefontaine
 

 

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A couple of years ago, I got bit by the jogging bug to try to get back into a little shape.  I actually jogged 55 miles the week of my 55th birthday – which for me was quite an accomplishment.  Anyway, to go along with the jogging, I bought a bunch of books about running.  (No, I was not running, but even old men can dream about lost youth.)  Because (as Popeye would say) “I yam wat I yam”, I first Googled the 10 best running books of all time and “PRE – The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine” was on the list.  So, I put the book in my temporary storage so I would be on the lookout for it at my local used bookstore.  I found it, picked it up, and promptly shelved it for later.
 

And there it sat…
 

I got injured and have had other health issues which have kept me from my slow jogs, and without the jogs, the motivation to keep reading running books just wasn’t there anymore.
 

For whatever reason, on Wednesday I picked it off the shelf and started reading.  “PRE” was written by Tom Jordan (1997©, 2nd edition) and is a very typical biography about a very good athlete who died in a car accident at the age of 24.  In running terms, that is really just at the start of becoming a “full-strength” man.  Runners can start running early – as children – but they don’t have the body mass / physical strength acquired from about the ages of 25 through 30 to be their personal optimal level.  So, Prefontaine passed away before he really had a chance to be a “GREAT” winner as well as a great running prodigy.  He had raced in the 1972 Olympics, but didn’t do well.  Although not favored to win in the 1976 Olympics, it seems certain he would have done well and maybe even medalled.  He was definitely America’s best runner at more than a mile and up to 10K for about 5 years.
 

To make a long story short, Prefontaine flipped his car and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.  He might have survived, but instead he was crushed by the car.
 

The book is a series of short anecdotes and quotes from folks who knew Prefontaine.  Unfortunately, not many did; and those who did, said they did not know him well.  The book, therefore, lacks a central story-teller to bring life to the person.  We are left with just his records, the quotes of those he ran against, and the quotes of the fans/observers he inspired.  The book, like the central character left me with a sense of unfulfilled promise.  Yes, his life was cut short, but what story we had was also unexplained and perhaps unexplainable.
 

It’s a good enough read, but it’s not likely to be one of the 10 best books about running I’ll ever read.  So, what’s the bottom line?  This is a recommend because it’s short, a fast read, and Steve Prefontaine seems like he was an interesting subject to have a bio about.  The flip side is there is no “Aha” moment when you crest the top of the hill and get the magnificent view (understanding) of the valley spread out before you.  Instead, there is an early nightfall and darkness just before you reach the crest.  Disappointment for what might have been…
 

The reason for the long intro/preface to this blog is because when I finished the book, I was looking at the photos of the accident site which shows the rock face the car rolled into.  The date on the rock is 30 May 1975.  The day I began reading the book – 30 May 2012.  Life is full of coincidences.  Yesterday (31 May), after finishing the book, I went out for an early evening jog – my first in months and months due to my kidney and gall stone issues.  I didn’t go far and I didn’t go fast, but it felt good to be out there in the heat and the air, simply putting one foot in front of the other. 
 

Rest In Peace, Pre… 
 

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift.”  —  Steve Prefontaine
 

 
 

 

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