Though I never had a chance to meet the man, I carry a vivid image of him in my mind: warm Oregon wind blowing through his wavy blonde hair as he breezes along a reddish-orange, white-lined oval. The surging crowd powers his wiry frame turn after turn as he teaches everyone within sight the meaning of running. However, an unfortunate spring night robbed us all of this wondrous talent and one of the world’s greatest distance runners. He was a completely new breed of runner and was said to have believed “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.”
My mind flashes to this runner at least once over the course of every run. As I click off the miles, I find myself attempting to emulate his elegant, magnificent form. His running was a work of art, not only in the way he ran, but for the reasons he ran as well. He wanted to put on a show for all of those who spectated as he circled the track. Perhaps it’s the warm comfort of sepia-colored nostalgia, but I have yet to see any athlete compete in the way he did. The passion that flowed through his veins and seeped out every pore of his body was contagious as it was the beginning of the rise of distance running.
Not only was this man able to inspire the world with the wonder of distance running, he also proposed a mental fortitude that challenged every conventional belief. It was an attitude of respectful arrogance, an idea that I have adopted in to my own racing. Each and every time I toe the line, full well knowing there are runners around me who have achieved greater feats and times better than mine. However, I refuse to let anyone’s reputation precede them. When I toe the line I expect all who are competing to give me their best, as I will give them mine, and let the score be settled on the course. This man held this same idea but on a completely different level. He was the definition of fearless when it came to racing.
This man I speak of is one of only three idols I have ever had and ever will have in sports. At times he may have been looked at as cocky, arrogant, or crazy, but it is for these reasons and far more that I look up to him. He had that swagger about him that all great athletes possess that allows them to transcend their sport. Each and every morning I wake up to a larger than life size poster of him telling me “The best pace is a suicide pace, and today is a good day to die.” It is impossible not to strive for greatness with this myth of man, motivating me each and everyday. He was a legend, he was the rube, his name was Pre.
Always in Stride,
Quote – “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart. And that he did. Nobody did it more often. Nobody did it better.” – Bill Bowerman’s character in movie Without Limits
Song – Baba O’Riley – The Who