Steve Prefontaine, or ‘Pre’ as he was known to his people, was the original ‘Rockstar Runner’. He was a kid from Coos Bay in Oregon, high up in the rainy North West of the United States. He had one leg shorter than the other and from a young age he was told he was too small and not fast enough to be a credible athlete.
I first fell upon Pre about 10 years ago, I remember flicking through the channels late one Sunday evening and stumbled across a 90’s movie about an insane runner with a kick ass moustache. Being the sport nut I was (and still am) I nestled in and was soon engrossed by the character that was unfolding in front of my eyes.
Pre’s story peaked my interest in the sport of running, enough to want to give it a go, but it wasn’t that simple. I was never going to be a runner, growing up in Liverpool as a kid, if you didn’t have a football at your feet, you simply didn’t run. There was no point, and certainly no enjoyment to be had, in moving slightly quicker from one point to another. Running was boring.
From that night though, Pre was always just there in my mind, a soundboard, an ideal that I would try and emulate in everything I did. He once said “to give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift”. I love this quote, to me it means to give your all in everything you do, the gift is your individual talents. Every new day is your gift, and to not step up and nail it is to waste it.
For years I was still oblivious to the wonderful world of tempo runs, long Sunday explorations, running crews and the burning in my lungs and legs during a hill session, this stuff had just never registered on my radar. I recall about 4 years ago, going out and buying my first pair of running trainers, and nailing a 40 minute treadmill 5K.
I felt sick, my legs felt like lead, my feet were killing me, but at the end, I felt the most unbelievable feeling of self satisfaction, accomplishment, strength and steel, just like Pre. I had give it my all, and I didn’t know if 40 minutes was good or bad, I couldn’t care less to be honest, I had just ran, without stopping, for 5,000 metres!
I had finally been introduced to my inner Pre, and I went on a one man mission to be the best runner I could be. I lost a load of weight, I gained stature and confidence, my pace picked up and I actually enjoyed shifting my body weight from point A to point B at an elevated heart rate. Running was no longer boring, but now my preferred choice of recreation.
It’s been an interesting journey so far, full of ups and downs, throw in a few half marathons, 5Ks, 10Ks and the odd Marathon, and running is now deeply engrained in my psyche, just as it was in Pre’s. Every single run since that first laborious treadmill 5K, there will come a point, it could be the 1st mile or the 26th mile, when I will ask myself in an inner monologue “what would Pre do?”. There is only ever one answer, and this brings solace to my soul, it always picks me up and allows me to explore parts of my mind and body that I never knew I possessed.
Steve Prefontaine was only 24 when he passed away, and he had literally brought sport to the masses, changed the way his Country governs athletics and showed the entire World that they can aspire to be like him. 40 years on he still inspires people, like me, and everything I do in life is inextricably linked to the original Rockstar Runner, Pre.