“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
—Steve Prefontaine, former U.S. Olympic distance runner
Taking off plays. Skipping workouts. Not running through the line. Basically, not giving your all every moment you train or compete is a complete waste of talent. That’s what Steve “Pre” Prefontaine believed, and that’s how he lived every day of his life.
Prefontaine was a world-renowned distance runner who ran track and cross country for the University of Oregon. Known as a brash-talking front-runner, Pre often led races by starting out strong and then running to the point of total exhaustion. His training regimen was borderline insane—running miles upon miles, pushing his body to its absolute limit, every day. “I’m going to work so that it’s a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it,” he told reporters during the 1972 Olympic Games.
Throughout his collegiate and amateur career, Pre claimed seven NCAA titles, a fourth-place Olympic finish in 1972 (5K), and American records from 2,000 meters through 10,000 meters.
Steve Prefontaine died in a car crash on May 30, 1975, at the age of 24. Although he never achieved his goal of winning an Olympic gold medal, his determination helped inspire an entire generation to strive for excellence.
So before you think about slacking off in practice, taking it easy and saving energy for the next day, think of what the 5’9” distance runner from Coos Bay, Oregon said over 30 years ago:
“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into [an] exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”