Prefontaine Had To Be No. 1 In Workouts

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Steve Prefontaine is the patron saint of American distance running. The modern era equivalent is either Alan Webb or Chris Solinsky. Knowing the latter two personally and being a student of the former, it is interesting to note some similarities — and there are many. 

All three of these men shared an unyielding competitiveness and a hunger for hard work to ready them for victory. It is trite to say that champions work hard. Of course they do, but so do the losers. Everyone is working hard. But I think the likes of Pre, Webb, and Solinsky make a more sophisticated calculation. They each worked hard to win. No, they didn't bust their butt for the sake of working hard, it was strictly a means to winning.

Another similarity is all three were fiercely competitive. All the time. Races or workouts, it didn't matter. I've witness several workouts where Solinsky and Webb got after it. Some of these were more riveting than the races for which they were preparing. Since I wasn't alive when Pre walked the earth, I have to rely on stories and books to provide insight. The bible on Prefontaine is, of course, Tom Jordan's classic, Pre! 

My favorite chapter in the book is titled Hard Work. Jordan interviews Pre's coaches and teammates about what separated him from the pack. If you read the chapter it is clear, he had the same moxie possessed by Webb and Solinsky: an overpowering competitiveness and an unmatched work ethic to win. 

The chapter's concluding passage encapsulates Pre spirit about his preparations perfectly: 

"Pre's biggest asset on the track was his competitive personality, " states Paul Geis. The story goes that there was a workout once where the team was supposed to run three 1320s (1200m) in 3:20, 3:16, 3:12. Scott Daggatt, one of the few runners who could stay with Pre over the long haul, ran 3:08 on the first one. 
"He went with me and he was pissed," notes Daggatt. "Then we went 3:06. On the last one, he said, 'Goddamit, I'm going to do it to you Daggatt.' He went 3:00 and I went 3:02."
"Pre had to be No. 1 in workouts," says Geis. "I remember another time Scott might have blown by him at one part of the workout. Three days later, Pre just obliterate him, and you realized what had happened: Pre had gone home and for the next 48 hours had mentally prepared. There were many casualties in the wake of people trying to keep up with him, myself included..."


Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm 

Jonathan Marcus