I reluctantly got out of bed realizing I had to race today. I half didn’t want to, but realizing it was the last meet of the month long Finnish tour that Pre set up I woke myself up and got dressed. I knew it would end up being a great meet, since it was at Eugene and Pre would definitely attract a large crowd especially with his loud talks of breaking his 5,000m record tonight. I wouldn’t call his loud mouth cockiness, just confidence. Every time he toed the line for a race, he just new he was going to win, and he had the numbers to back up his talk. I mean he currently holds every American record from the 2,000m to the 10,000m, and he only ever lost 3 races at Hayward field in Eugene, which were all in the mile (Rice). Now being fully awake, I remembered why this race was so important to me and I had to get up for it, it was my last chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the 800m (Bence2008)ere was just one minor hurdle for me today and that is, I broke my jaw in the PAC-8 Championships and my Jaw was wired shut from surgery a few days ago (Bence2008)
Pre on the other hand I knew would be ready to race and in peak condition; he wanted that record. There was just one thing missing that day for Pre. He was at the peak fitness, at his home track in Eugene, and most definitely would attract a crowd; he always did especially in Eugene where track is so well respected. The only thing missing for a perfect race was actually a person, Lasse Viren from Finland (Moore 4560-64). In the 1972 Munich Olympics Pre raced Viren in the 5000m, he desperately wanted to win gold for the Americans. Before the race he preached how he would run the last mile in four minutes flat for the win (Moore 4494-98). He ran to win that night, and as the race played out Pre set out to do exactly that, with a mile to go he went after that last 4 minute mile (Moore 4560-64). He couldn’t hang on that long and lost the race to Viren and ended up getting fourth; Pre was devastated (Moore 4560-64). But now his running fighting to the death spirit was back, he was ready to put on a show for the crowd even if he couldn’t do it beating Viren.
After getting ready I strapped on my running shoes and headed out to do a light jog to loosen up my legs for the race latter that night (Bence). On my morning Jog I ran right into Pre and he talked me into coming over to his house with a couple of our buddies Mark Feig, and Matt Centrowitz to relax before the meet (Bence). Jogging back to my home I realized I had a math exam tomorrow and contemplated not going to Pre’s but decided to bring my books to his house instead (Bence). “Pre was hyper and needed others to keep him distracted and calm” (Bence).
Before heading out to Pre’s I ate my usual pre-race meal; pancakes, syrup, fruit, orange juice, coffee, and a couple of aspirin (Bence2008). We all had our pre-race rituals and after completing mine I headed off to Pre’s to relax before our races. As I showed up they were already engulfed into a game of Spades and I opened up my math books to study (Bence2008). As the game went on we all talked about the things track nerds tend to talk about while away from the track; track (Bence2008). Pre would break a race down to its tiniest details and split seconds, always trying to figure out how he could take hundredths off his time. He was always planning how he would break his next record, and win his next race.
Later in the afternoon it was finally time to get going, game time was approaching. Pre got changed into his uniform and warm ups, but before we could leave he had to take a picture with him. “The [four] of us anchored The Great Race,
When the 5000m race finally came, you could tell this was the race the crowd was waiting for all day. The stands were bursting with a crowd of over 7,000; they were all here for this one race (Moore 4930-35). They all came to see Pre. As Pre came out and toed the line, the crowd was going nuts screaming, “Go Pre, Go Pre, Go Pre!” Once the race started the crowd became even more entranced watching Pre run. The Runners came to the first mile in 4 minutes 17 seconds as Frank Shorter lead the pack, Pre staying calm and confident as he pounded away at the track, the thought of loosing never crossing his mind as he raced (Moore 4930-35). At the mile and a half and a half Pre finally took the lead to the crowd’s enjoyment, and they yelled and whistled him on imagining the louder they were the faster he would run (Moore 4930-35). At two miles with a little over a mile to go Pre went into another gear starting to pull ahead of the rest of the racers now (Moore 4930-35). This is when it starts to hurt, after running two miles and having a little over one more to go, and giving it everything you have going after the record. This is when the other runners suffer, when Pre glides away and they can’t keep in contact, this is where Pre shined. All 7,000 pairs of eyes are now on Pre going into his final four hundred meters, as he digs even deeper for strength giving it every last ounce of energy. You can see he is tired but he never gives into the pain, not even for a split second. He keeps on driving, harder and harder to toward the line. Coming into the home stretch, “He run[s] the last 50 yards with his eyes shut squeezing away the suffering”(Moore 4935-39). He crosses the line and the cord erupts into its loudest roar yet, as he finishes in 13 minutes 23.8 seconds; he was 1.6 seconds from breaking the recorder, but the crowd still shows shim their love”(Moore 4935-39). Pre was disappointed he didn’t break the record but he knew he gave it everything, and that was good enough for him. Within only a minute, Pre Amazingly recovers, and thanks the crowd with a few victory laps (Bence Death). “I was always amazed to see Pre’s victory laps. He gave everything in his races and most of us would have had to sit for awhile to recover” (Bence2008). “My definition of fitness came from what I saw in Pre. For me, Fitness has to do with how fast a person can go from pure exhaustion to recovery. Pre recovered fast” (Bence2008). As Pre did his victory laps he graciously signed autographs for the fans all screaming his name, he had a connection with the crowd (Bence Death). Tonight was like a fairytale with the roaring of the crowd carrying Pre every step of the race, he didn’t get his record but he was fired up and ready to win gold for America in the next Olympics. He was re-born after he was torn down in the Munich Olympics (Bence). He was America’s greatest distance runner ever to live, he was Steve Prefontaine.
After the race was over we all went back to my house and showered and got dressed (Bence 2008). Pre invited me to join him to celebrate with a couple of drinks over at the Paddock; “It was a place for college kids…pitchers of beer, hamburgers, hotdogs, pinball machines, and pool tables” (Bence 2008). But I still had my test tomorrow, and I; unlike Pre needed some time to recover from my race.
After the paddock Pre went a Party around 10pm (Bence Death). The party was held to celebrate the end of the Finish tour (Moore 4937-42). At the party there were talks of having Pre down to Finland and racing there with them, of course this appealed to Pre who wanted badly to race Viren again (Moore 4937-42). As the party came to an end, “Frank [Shorter] wanted to stay longer, so Pre said he would drive him home, and he did at about 12:30” (Moore 4942-46). No more then a minute after dropping Frank Shorter off, Pre “had been killed in a one-car accident on Skyline Drive” (Moore 4946-50). At the accident site there were skid marks for 40 feet as Pre tried to bring the car to a stop after loosing control before he slammed into a natural rock wall, flipping his MGB convertible over landing underneath it (Bence Death). His lungs that had helped him win so many races, could not bear the pressure of his car, and he suffocated to death (Moore 4950-54). The great Steve Prefontaine who held every American record from the 2,000m to the 10,000m was not wearing a seatbelt (Moore 4950-54).
Pre’s Autopsy showed his BAC was 0.16 which was above Oregon’s legal limit. “I had been with him in the past and knew he wasn’t a very good driver after a few drinks. I could easily see him a bit tipsy, and trying to drive… although I must stress that no one on [that] evening described him as being impaired” (Bence 2008).