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Steeve Prefontaine

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Number One Races (3 key races used in the movie Without Limits)

1974 Restoration Meet

Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, Knut Kvalheim, Craig Virgin (I think), and Don Kardong

In the movie the 1974 Restoration Meet served to show the transition from Pre's utter disappointment and setback after the 1972 Olympics to his revival and progress towards a shot at the Olympic gold medal in the 1976 Montreal Games.

The following description is from the book "Pre" by Tom Jordan ...

Pre warmed up with Shorter and they exchanged thoughts about race goals.  "There was an understanding between us that we would go together sharing the lead until a half-mile to go, and then whoever won, won," says Frank.  "But the object was to run under 13:00." 

Working together, Pre and Shorter dropped the good field after a mile in 4:16.5, just a second off world-record pace.  Through nine laps in 9:44, the agreement worked; then Pre led for three straight.

"I don't think Frank held up his part of the bargain toward the end of the race," groused Pre later. photo by Alfred G. Shirtcliff

Actors in the movie WIthout Limits.
Photo by Steve Bence at filming ... Hayward Field
(notice the attention to detail in the uniforms)

They had entered the stage of fast races where the protests of the body overrule the willingness of the mind.  Then Frank gathered, and with a quarter remaining, shot into the lead. 

The din, already awesome, increased in volume.  Don Kardong, running alone in third place, had never heard anything like it.  "I almost stopped," he says, "because it was really loud, and they weren't even watching me." 

Photo by Erik Hill

Into the backstretch, and all eyes were on Shorter and Pre and the 10-yard gap between them.  They approached the last bend with the outcome still very much in doubt.  Shorter, however, could feel himself tighten. 

"When I started sprinting in the last 220, I knew I was dying, and I knew that I was going to go into the wind up the homestretch.  So I thought that if he had anything left he was probably going to get me."

Billy Crudup running as Steve Prefontaine in the movie Without Limits.
Photo by Steve Bence ... filming at Hayward Field

Pre sensed the break.  "I knew I had a chance with a 220 to go," he remarked.  "I just relaxed, felt fresh again, and started accelerating." 

Shorter was far from giving up, "but it was just a situation where you're going as hard as you can and that's it - there's nothing more there.  I thought if I could get within 30 yards of the finish I could get him, because he tended to die a little bit in the last 10-15 yards.  He caught me well before that, about 80 yards out." 

Steve Prefontaine setting a American 3-mile record.
Photo by Mike Lyons

Pre was running one of his fastest homestraights ever, regardless of the length of the race, and he pulled ahead to win by six-tenths in a new American record of 12:51.4. 

As they warmed down together, Steve's fans offered congratulations to them both.  One friend down on the crowded infield asked, "what happened out there?  I thought you slowed down."

Pre said, "Yeah, I almost let him win.  I was just thinking it wasn't that big a deal.  Then, I don't know, something inside of me just said, 'Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,' and I just took off!"

Jeff Atkinson as a stand-in for Billy Crudup.
Jeff Atkinson as Billy Crudup's stand-in ... Hayward Field

Later, when the reporters asked how he had pulled it out, Pre's answer encapsulated the strength he received from racing in Eugene. 

"The idea of losing the three at Hayward Field and the idea of losing my specialty to someone who wasn't running his specialty.  Mostly, the idea of losing in front of my people. 

"They haven't forgotten about me." 


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