I have been trading messages with a good friend of mine up in Dallas about my training lately.  We followed it up with a phone call this past week, just two days before my latest race on Wednesday night.

We spoke in generalities about what seemed to be “missing” lately when it came to my running.  How I was pretty disappointed with myself, not so much with the results I had been getting, but more in the effort that I was putting in.

Our conversation covered all of the excuses I had been batting around in my head.  My five weeks away from running as I recovered from my left knee injury.  All of the “doubles” I had been doing since I returned to running.  Running in the morning, swimming in the afternoon, biking on my off days, sometimes actually biking and running back to back as a “brick” workout.  I had been training 9 or 10 hours a week throughout the month of May, surely I was  just tired.

All of that was really just bullshit though, and I knew it.

For some reason I just wasn’t pushing as hard as I had been leading up to the Austin Marathon.  I needed to get back to basics and think about why I run or race at all. 

Memorial Day Monday will be the anniversary of Steve Prefontaine’s death in 1975.

I was just a 7-year old boy on May 30th of ’75 – the thought of long-distance running was not even a glimmer on my horizon.  It would not be for another 30 years.  Pre’s death that night on Skyline Boulevard just East of the University of Oregon Campus changed the US Running scene forever.

That’s not an overdramatized statement.  It’s a fact.

Next Saturday on June 4th the Prefontaine Classic will be  run at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR.  the very track where Pre never lost a single race.

Top runners from all over the world will come to Eugene to compete on the Nation’s largest stage when it comes to track and field outside of the Olympics.

Ironically as I was stretching before my little 5K race on Wednesday night, a young man walked by with a Prefontaine T-shirt on.

Austin, TX, 2011, Wednesday night local 5K.  A Prefontaine shirt.  Really?

As I walked down to the starting area from the benches and took the last swallow from my water bottle, another runner, this time a 40+ year old man strolled past with an Oregon Green T-shrt with PRE LIVES in bright yellow letters.

Another one?  Really?

Was that the last shock to the system that I needed to get back to racing the way that I know that I can?  I’m not sure.  But I will tell you that it has never really been about Pre’s death and the tragedy that brought me great interest and motivation.  It was the way that Pre raced.  There are volumes of stories that people have shared throughout the years about Pre.

At one point Pre held every single american record from 2000 Meters to 10,000.  His style was to simply go out and take the heart of his competitors.  He was not a “coast and kick” type of runner.  He wanted to run at a breakneck pace and simply turn every race into a battle, where only the toughest runner, the one who “wanted it the most” could win.  And Pre won just about all of them.

There is a great letter that you can read from Pre to his coach Walt Mclure that was written just 13 days before his death.

You can read the letter in its entirety by clicking here:

You can sense that the start of something special was forming in Steve’s mind when it came to running in the 1976 olympics.  Just a spark that was starting to build inside of him that by the time he got to Montreal there would have been very little chance of anyone staying with Pre.

Infectious is the word I think of when I read about his training and racing.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  Never have, never will.

There is some reason that the only two T-shirts I have seen in the last year with “PRE” on them at a race in Austin showed up on the same night.  The very night that I was searching to find what I had been missing.

I went out and ran a :06 Personal best on the course with the temperature reading 100 degrees.

Coincidence?  Hardly.

Pre would be retired now, 62 years old, still running I’m sure, the way he always had.  For the love of it.

19 years from now I’ll be that 62 year-old still doing my best, trying to hang with some of the young guys, running for the same reason.  Because I love it.

Maybe I’m running Pre’s miles now – albeit a lot slower.  There is a trip out there that I am hoping to take this September with my friend from Dallas.  A trip to Coos Bay Oregon for the running of the Steve Prefontaine Memorial 10K.  It will be run this year on September 17, 2011.  Traveling from Austin to Oregon for a 10K race seems a little silly?

Actually, it’s the least I can do.

January 25, 1951 - May 30, 1975

RIP Pre.  Thanks for everything.

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