Steve Prefontaine - Without Limits

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Bill Bowerman


There was disappointment that Donald Sutherland was not nominated for an Oscar in his portrayal of Bill Bowerman.  However Sutherland won the Golden Satellite award and was nominated for a Golden Globe.  Snippets about both Bill and Donald. 

To the left is one of the more popular pictures of Bill and Pre.  You can see in their expressions the accomplishment that Pre made in that race plus the pride and the almost childish playfulness in Bill. 

To be fair, the movie doesn't give justice to Bill Dellinger's excellent coaching of Pre.  Mary Marckx said that Dellinger was the technical, day-to-day coach but Pre looked to Bowerman to be his mentor and "teacher of life".  The movie focuses on the Bowerman / Prefontaine relationship and the way that Bowerman taught lessons of life to all his athletes through running.  Bill hated to be called called "coach" ... he considered himself a teacher whose lessons were entended to go beyond collegiate sports. 

Like Pre, my day-to-day coach was Bill Dellinger but Bowerman was occassionally on the track after his official retirement in 1972.  Here is an entry from my diary about Bowerman ... 

"Bowerman timed us today.  After one of the 300's he grabbed me by the neck and timed my pulse.  He said it was too fast and made me skip the next one.  I felt fine but he wouldn't let me run until I recovered." 

I picked out this journal entry because in the movie, Bill grabs Pre by the neck in one of the training scenes.


Photo by Steve Sutton

[I June 1972 Track & Field News]  The head coaches of the 1968 and 1972 US Olympic track teams share a light moment at the Pac-8 meet.  Payton Jordan (l) directed the 68 team at Mexico, while Bill Bowerman heads the 72 team at Munich.


 The 1972 Olympic track & field coaches.  Head coach Bill Bowerman, Stan Wright, Bill McClure, Hoover Wright, and Ted Haydon.  [1972 Track & Field News]

A photo from the filming of the movie.  Pre (Billy Crudup) and Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) have a short, tense exchange immediately after Pre's first 3-mile race at the U.O. 

In this scene, Bowerman truly learns the coaching challenge that he has on his hands.


Donald Sutherland acknowledges the 'extras' in the grandstand. [Pre speaking in  Mary Marckx's book]  (Pre explains to Mary that absolutely ... there isn't anything that he cannot do.)

 "There isn't anything you can't learn with the right training, the right teacher.  There isn't any talent you can't go out and get.  Look at me," he tapped his broad chest vehemently.  "I haven't any talent.  Hell, there are a dozen other guys on the team with more talent in their little fingers than I've got.  I just work harder.  And I'm tougher here."  His finger moved to rap on the top of his head.  "I learned that young, in Coos Bay.  That's what makes me the best in the country, probably the best in the world."


The real Bill Bowerman and me in a tent watching a monitor during a shoot at Hayward Field ... summer 1996. 

Conrad Hall was the cinematographer for the movie.  He has now received 9 Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography ... winning twice ... in 1969 for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ... and 2000 for American Beauty .


John Woodman, Bill Bowerman, and Steve Bence at a track reunion in Eugene.

June 1996 Track Reunion in Eugene - John Woodman, Bill, and me.


Phil Knight - May 1999 at a tribute to Bill Bowerman.

May 1999 Nike Campus in Beaverton, Oregon - Phil Knight hosted a "thank you" to Bill for everything that Bill had done.


Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight on the Nike campus - May 1999.

May 1999 - A chat with Phil and Bill.


Barbara Bowerman and Ellen Devlin.

Bill's wife Barbara was in normal energetic form. On the right is Ellen Devlin.


Mac Wilkins, Bill Bowerman, and Steve Bence

May 1999 - Mac Wilkins, Bill Bowerman, and me.


Paul Geis, Rudy Chapa, Steve Bence, Mac Wilkins, Alberto Salazar, Dave Taylor, Howard Banich, and Ellen Devllin.

May 1999 - Paul Geis (1976 Olympian), Rudy Chapa (American 3000m record holder), me, Mac Wilkins (Olympic gold medalist and world record holder), Alberto Salazar (Olympian and world record holder), Bill, Dave Taylor (multiple all-American), Howard Banich (Oregon weight man), and Ellen Devlin (Oregon middle distance runner).

. . . 7 months later, on Christmas Day 1999, Bill died. Phil Knight remembered Bill Bowerman on the Nike campus.

Phil Knight speaks at the Bowerman memorial on the Nike campus.

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