Heaven Sent from Oregon:
I loved this one by Oregon native and former Sports Illustrated writer and Olympian distance runner, Kenny Moore. Moore's recent SI article on the Steve Prefontaine Classic in Eugene and what the event means to not only the track and field world, but most importantly, to the state of Oregon is a great one.
Moore says that former University of Oregon Track and Field coach and Nike founder,Bill Bowerman, who is one of my all-time favorite icons, once explained the story of the people who settled Oregon after traveling the Oregon Trail in 1845 as "The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way...I guess that leaves us, doesn't it." Statements like that sum up the man they called "Pre".
Photo: "Pre's Last Race"
Many people now know the legend of Steve Prefontaine, "Pre", from the movies that came out with a bleach-blonded Jared Leto or Billy Crudup starring as the 'logger' runner from Coos Bay, but did the films really capture the spirit of Pre..."Prefontaine" came close, but no movie ever could or will....However, if there is a public event that can honor and capture the spirit of Pre, it's the Prefontaine Classic, which is held each June in Eugene, Oregon.
Moore describes the event eloquently by saying. "And every year at this time when he left us, when the roses and peonies are most potent, when the rhododendrons in Hendricks Park bend under tons of wet, pink blossoms, we have Pre's track meet. This is his time, blending the two opposites that met in him, the voluptuary and the ascetic."
Yes, June is Pre's time...It's the time to hit the pavement and push that finish line just a little bit farther. As Moore states. "Prefontaine loved rough, lascivious talk ("Envision a satyr," Frank Shorter once said) and was quick to whine about injustice, but nothing was more obscene for him than surrender. He ran hard, he castigated those who didn't, and yet he loved the girls, loved the rush of life, loved kids, loved love. His morning 10-miler, he said, was to keep him from getting fat on the pizza and beer of the night before. He swore that if he didn't run, he'd gain four pounds a day, indefinitely. He was all appetite and power. His heaving chest in a race could seem luridly sensual. He had bellows for lungs, blasting his furnace with 84.4 ml/kg/minute of oxygen, the highest VO2 max reading ever recorded in a runner. Air for the burning.
You can't think of that chest without thinking of the accident, of Pre in his last battle, his convertible having rolled that May night in 1975 and come to rest on that great chest. He had not broken a bone. It was simply the weight of his beloved butterscotch MG pressing the life out of him."
Yes, we did lose a great one on that night in May of '75, but because of the Pre Classic, there's just enough air to preserve Pre's spirit in Eugene.
Don't let life fade away in the woods or on the trail today...Here's to Pre, Eugene, The Pre Trail, Hayward Field, and Hendricks Park....Thank you Kenny Moore for the great article.