The Life and Times of Steve 'Pre' Prefontaine

26-04-17

Steve Prefontaine died in a car accident in May 1975 at the young age of 24. Despite his short-lived career, Steve’s influence on the sport of running was everlasting. With a distinctive moustache and a headful of hair waving in the wind as he ran, Prefontaine played a seminal role in kick-starting the American running boom of the 1970s; 25 million Americans took up the sport, including the President at the time, Jimmy Carter.

A student-athlete at the University of Oregonwhere he remained undefeated in all collegiate races at 3 miles, 5000 metres, 6 miles, and 10,000 metresPrefontaine’s relationship with the Oregon-based sportswear giant Nike ran deep. A member of the track team, the gifted Prefontaine trained under esteemed coach Bill Bowerman, the founder of Blue Ribbon Sports—the small 'mum and pop' shop that would later grow into the largest sporting goods brand in the world. 

In 1972, at the age of 21, Prefontaine debuted the now iconic Nike Waffle Racer, featuring the legendary waffle outsole, on the global stage during the Munich Olympics. Instead of featuring traditional spikes, the innovative outsole of the racers—crafted from urethane, the substance used for Oregon's all-weather track at the time—was moulded using Mrs Bowerman's waffle iron.

Following his college career, Prefontaine began to train for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, in the process setting American records in every race between 2000 meters and 10,000 meters while at the Oregon Track Club. Though his life was tragically cut short before the event and his athletic peak, his name and legacy have become immortalised through his namesake sneaker, the Nike Pre Montreal Racer.

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