Steve Prefontaine revolutionized the sport of running in ways that are unprecedented. For anyone who is outside the track and field bubble, they simply would not understand. The Oregon native undoubtedly was one of the first pioneers that launched the trend of America falling in love with the sport. A sport that defines grit, determination and more than anything else, heart. Prefontaine didn't just meet his goals, he crushed them. He raised the bar among his colleagues and advocated for a brand that turned into a global icon. Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman may have started Nike but Prefontaine's reputation is what took the company over the top.
By the end of his high school tenure, it was obvious that Prefontaine had greatness within him. That led to his recruitment from Bill Bowerman himself who convinced Prefontaine to attend the University of Oregon. The rest was history - during his career, Prefontaine won seven NCAA titles, set nine collegiate track records while also breaking his own or other American records 14 different times. As an Oregon duck, Prefontaine never lost a distance race longer than a mile.
Being a winner is one thing to admire about Prefontaine, but his mental toughness and drive is something else that should be greatly appreciated. When Prefontaine won his first three-mile track title he raced with 12 stitches in his foot from a diving board accident a few days prior. That takes toughness that is unrivaled from the everyday competitor. Rather, it's an innate quality that only the great ones truly possess. Prefontaine is notorious for saying that he runs to see who has the most guts. Plain and simple, if you were gonna beat him you were going to have to push yourself to the brink of exhaustion and then some more.
Prefontaine's life fell short when he died from a tragic car crash on the way home from a house party after finishing in first place for an NCAA Prep meet race earlier in the day. The Eugene Police Department determined that Prefontaine's blood alcohol content was below the legal limit. While driving on an extended right curve his 1973 MGB convertible crossed the center lane, jumped the curve and impacted a rock wall which resulted in the car flipping over with Prefontaine pinned beneath the wreckage. He was only 24 years old.
A memorial was made at the base of the roadside boulder where Prefontaine died of his injuries. Runners from all over the world travel to the site to bring their race numbers, medals, and other various running memorabilia to honor Prefontaine's memory. It's always been a goal of mine to travel and visit Oregon to pay my respects to the legend. His legacy will live on forever because legends never die.