the story of America's greatest
Running  legend

Title of Book: Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine

Tackk Created By: Emma Gallagher


          "Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend: Steve Prefontaine" written by Tom Jordan is the story of Steve Prefontaine's life. Steve Roland Prefontaine (also known as "Pre") was an American runner that came from the small town of Coos Bay, Oregon, who inspired thousands of people to work hard and keep trying. His story still inspires many people across the country and even people in other countries to follow their dreams. He was one of the greatest runners of all time and won a great abundance of races throughout his short, but amazing life. He was adored by thousands of people when he was alive and at every race he ran, there was always a large crowd of people encouraging him and shouting "Go Pre!" Steve loved his fans and in the book it speaks of times where he heard his fans while running races and was determined to win for them. Pre had a great character as he was kind, hard-working, great with people, and humble. Although many people thought of him as "cocky" after many races he would be seen asking and taking victory laps with his competitors. Pre had a very short life as he died when he was only 24 years old (he had yet to reach his full potential of running) in a car accident.

          The book introduces Steve Prefontaine as an American runner who at first was not interested in running but then got attached to it when he went through a three-week conditioning camp at school and realized it was something in which he could excel. The longer the distance he ran, the better he did in placing. The next school year, he joined cross country and was already running a 5:01 mile. He continued running cross country throughout high school and when he was a senior he ran a 3:56 mile. He was willing to work as hard as he needed to be number one. Pre was undefeated in his junior and senior year of high school in cross country and track. He was getting letters in the mail from many colleges who wanted to recruit him. Pre was deciding on the University of Oregon or Oregon State and wound up going to the University of Oregon when he received a hand written letter from Bill Bowerman (the legendary main track coach at the University of Oregon) that said if Steve came to the University, Bowerman would make him into the "best distance runner ever." Naturally, being who he was, Pre took the opportunity. He competed in cross country at the University as well as track. He also competed in AAU championships, international tours, NCAA championships, state championships, countless invitationals, and even competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics (where he got 4th place in the 5000 meters). Pre was undefeated in every distance above the mile during his time at the University of Oregon.

          Steve Prefontaine died on May 30th, 1975. He had just run the 5,000 meters and won with a time of 13:23.8 at Hayward Field at Eugene Oregon the day before. After the race he took several victory laps and then stopped at his college where he talked to Bill Dellinger and attended a track and field awards banquet dinner. He then drove to the Paddock Tavern with his girlfriend Nancy Alleman and had several drinks. An hour later they drove to Geoff Hollister's house to attend a party. Many runners and Steve's parents were at the party and say that he then had another four or five drinks. He did not appear intoxicated. At around 12:00 Steve, his girlfriend, and Frank Shorter drove down to the University where his girlfriend got her car and drove home. Steve dropped off Frank Shorter where he was staying with Kenny Moore and continued to drive home. Pre was coming down a hill and did not have his seat-belt on. He went over the curb, hit a rock wall and then was pinned underneath his car. The house closest to the crash was the house of the Alvarado's. They heard a thump and went outside where they found Steve's car and called the police. By the time they arrived, Pre was already dead. He was given a blood test and had 0.6 more alcohol than was legal in Oregon in his blood. Steve was buried in Coos Bay, his hometown. His death was tragic and happened very suddenly.

          When people found out that Steve Prefontaine was dead, they were shocked. He was so young and just the day before he had been alive and full of energy. Now his energy was gone, something that his fans could not fathom. He held clinics, started a jogging club, tutored, organized tours, started a running club at a prison, attended college, ran countless races, and when he was not doing any of those things, he was training (as it states in the book.) Pre was the first athlete to sign a contract with Nike and paved the way for many other runners. He held 15 American records at every distance from the 2 mile to the 10,000 meters. When he died, something was missing from the running world, the fire that Pre created when he ran. Rick Riley said, "... and that at any minute the Star would appear and the crowds would roar to life, athlete and spectator giving and talking whatever it is that each needs and wants. I stood there on the track near the finish but he did not appear. The magic was gone forever." There have been other great runners and there are many to come, but there never has been or will be another Steve Prefontaine.


           This picture shows Steve Prefontaine running at the AAU Championships at Eugene Oregon in 1971. He ran the three mile and got a time of 12:58 which is an average pace of 4:19. Before this race, only one other man had broke 13 minutes for the three mile and he was Gerry Lindgren. At the end of the race Steve Prefontaine and Steve Stageberg where neck and neck but Pre beat him out by about two seconds.

          This picture shows Steve Prefontaine representing the United States in the 5000 meter final  in the 1972 Munich Olympics. In this race he just narrowly missed a medal, taking 4th place, only two seconds off of the winning time. He ran 13:28 in this race and it was 3.1 miles long which means he averaged a mile pace of about 4:28.

          Here is a photograph of Prefontaine signing an autograph for some of his young fans. This picture is appropraite to be included because Pre's fans were a major part of his success. When he was running, he would hear his fans and say, "I cannot let them down." Not only did Pre love his fans, but his fans loved him, especially children. His fans would come to his races in the thousands and chant his name. They were inspired by this running legend because no one could run like Pre. He was unique from many other runners because he had unexplainable energy and pushed himsdelf throughout the whole race not just at the end and they loved that about him.

          This picture shows Prefontaine wearing a "Stop Pre" t-shirt. They where created as a joke in response to the "Go Pre" shirts that were made. Many people did not find it amusing until Pre himself saw John Gillespie after the 1972 Olympic time trials and accepted one  of the shirts. This shows Pre's sense of humor and is another reason people were so inspired by him.

          This is one of Steve Prefontaine's very famous quotes,"To give anything less than the best is to sacrifice the Gift." He says this to remind us that we are lucky to be able to enjoy the sport and that it should not be taken for granted. In other words, when you do not give it your all you are wasting the time you have to do great things. This quote is significant because what it means is so important for runners and all people in general to remember.


          One very clear theme that is shown by Steve Prefontaine in "Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend: Steve Prefontaine" is to always do your best and to not take anything for granted because you never know what will happen to you. This is a great theme for Steve Prefontaine because he always ran as if he was running the most important race of his life. Not only that, but since he always did his best, he did not take running for granted. Pre is a great example of not taking things for granted because he died when he was only twenty four  years old.

          As I stated before, one theme shown by Steve Prefontaine in the book was to always try your hardest. I took this theme away from the book because no matter the circumstances, Pre always ran his hardest. In the book it states, "He trained everywhere, on the beaches and dunes, and on the golf course where the team did some of its training. At all hours, after being stopped by the police inquiring about just what he was doing." This quote explains that Pre was always training and proves that he was always working  hard.  Another part of the theme that I claimed before was to not take anything for granted because you never know what will happen. This is accurate because Pre did not take anything for granted especially running and it was a good thing he did because he died at a young age. Steve has a quote that proves he did not take anything for granted. It goes," To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift." In this case "the Gift" is running as it explains in the book. This detail proves that Steve Prefontaine did not take running for granted. These details prove that Steve Prefontaine died at a young age, " So why all the attention on an athlete who at age 24, was barely getting started in his running career and in life?...  Pre's story is not simply one of a gifted athelete dying young." Clearly one can see why the theme I stated is a valid one to take away from Pre's story.

          After seeing details from the story on Pre's life it is clear that Steve Prefontaine was hardworking and did not take things for granted, as he did not know what was going to happen. That is why all of those things stated above are reasonable to use as a theme for Pre and the book.



          This song is appropriate because it is talking about how with every second of every minute of every day he made the most of what he could do and what he had. This describes Pre because whenever he ran, he gave it his all from the beginning to the end. The song goes along perfectly with Pre because even with his short life, every day he did what he was capable of and beyond that. In the book it states, "Pre acknowledged that he was a great runner, could even become the best in the world, but he sincerely believed that many others had been born with more running talent than he; that everything achieved had been due to hard work and always giving his best. 'It made him mad to see wasted talent." This detail proves that Pre was hardworking and thought that people should use what they have and get better, even if they don't have the natural talent that others do. In the song it claims," The only way you can know is give it all you have..." This quote proves that the song supports the idea of always trying hard. Clearly the song relates to Steve Prefontaine's beliefs.


          I chose this video because it sums up Steve Prefontaine and his career. The video shows how Pre was an American legend and makes him look inspiring which he was and still is very inspiring. It shows the sacrifices that Pre made to run. As he says in the video,"Running doesn't pay your bills, you've got to make a lot of sacrifices." But it shows how much Steve enjoyed the sport  and what he did so he could run. During the video it also mentions how Pre always ran with a great kick and gave it his all. I feel this video is a great representation of Pre and how he was always working hard and giving it his all.

Compare/ contrast

          Click on the button below to see another text on Steve Prefontaine that I compare and contrast to the book I read.

          There are many similarities and differences between the article and the book "Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend: Steve Prefontaine."  Some similarities are that both texts talk about how Steve Prefontaine wanted to be number one and that Pre had a large amount of fans. Some differences between the two texts are that the book talks about Pre before he was a runner where the text starts off with Steve already running and that the book

          As stated earlier, the text, "Steve Prefontaine, International Track Star, Running Legend" and the book, "Pre, The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine" have many similarities. These include that Pre always had a large crowd and that he always wanted to be number one." In the article it states, " made him the idol of "his people"- the devoted fans who came to watch him run and entered into the performance with roars of encouragement, "Go Pre!" It also claims, "Here he developed his hunger to be the best in the field." These details prove that the text talks about Pre's desire to be number one and that he had many fans. In the book it talks about those things as well. In the book it claims, "'What I want to be is number one,' is how Pre so aptly put it." The book also says, "The 7,000 fans who showed up in the chilly weather kept up steady encouragement..." These details prove that the book talks about how Pre wanted to be number one and that Pre had a very large abundance of fans. Clearly one can see that the article and the book have many similarities.

          There are also many differences in the text including that the book talks about Pre before he ran and that it is much longer than the text and contains many more details of Pre's life. In the book it claims, "Growing up, Steve was an active youngster, tearing around the house..." The book is also 168 pages long. In the other article it starts off saying, "During his brief 24-year lifespan, Steve Prefontaine grew from hometown hero..." Also, the text is only 4 brief paragraphs long which is very much shorter than 168 pages where there is very extensive detail on Steve Prefontaine's life. These details prove that the book has more detail and is longer than the text and theses are clear differences between the text and the book.

          Clearly after looking at the details shown above, one can see that there are differences and similarities between the book I read and the short informational text on Steve Prefontaine.

The ENd