Pre’s Inspiration

Steve Prefontaine posses with Elaine Finley in front of The Egyptian theatre. Photo Courtesy of Coos County Historical & Maritime Museum

Steve Prefontaine is perhaps America’s most iconic long distance runner. His success on the track in the late 60’s and early 70’s excels most runners of even today…having set 14 American records and holding seven American records in distances from 2,000 to 10,000 meters. Bill Bowerman, his track coach at the University of Oregon said, “He will become the greatest runner in the world.”

Prefontaine’s gutsy style of running quickly earned the admiration of his fans and respect of his competitors…it also put him in the spotlight as the first marketing agent for a new shoe company at the time, eventually called Nike.

Steve, better known as “Pre”, has a following that is legendary. Pre’s energy on the track was symbiotic with his fans in the stands, which chanted “Go Pre!” to propel him to win 120 races in track. He won 39 of 49 races in high school alone (including international meets), and later in college became the first person to win four NCAA titles in one event.

These Pre fans are better known as “Pre’s People”, which is the title of our new Steve Prefontaine documentary. “Pre’s People” is not just a documentary about the runner’s accomplishments. It’s about the people of the small, blue-collar town on the Oregon coast where Pre came from—Coos Bay, and how his rugged hometown surroundings shaped him. This documentary will offer an intimate portrait of Pre’s People, as told through Pre’s biggest fans, and will illuminate his enduring popularity 36 years after his death. Pre lives, and this documentary is a testament to his legend, with more than 50 interviews and never published before photos and film footage.

This flyer Prefontaine-TrackMeet-Flyerwas to be Pre’s final meet on the track at Marshfield High School, Coos Bay, Oregon. Twenty-one days later, he died in a tragic car accident.

My name is Brad Jenkins. I went to Marshfield High. I have had this poster in my possession since May 9, 1975. Thirty-five years later, I scanned it.

for a few admirers of Pre that I knew would enjoy having a copy. I began to hand them out to various fans of Pre, better known as Pre’s People.

As I started to hand out this poster, the recipients unlocked a treasure trove of personal stories about Pre. Some were so unbelievable and funny that I felt a need to record them for all Pre’s People to enjoy.

 Aerial photo of neighborhood and high school where Steve Prefontaine grew up...Coos Bay, Oregon.
Aerial photo of neighborhood and high school where Steve Prefontaine grew up…Coos Bay, Oregon.
Prefontaine-Marshfield -Plaque
Plaque on Marshfield High School track stadium where Pre set his last American Record.

I teamed up with my longtime friend Travis Johnson, who is in the TV business as well as other Marshfield High School alumni’s to produce the documentary. Travis and I both watched Pre set his final American Record as 11-year-old kids…and attended his funeral a few weeks later. We hope our documentary inspires future generations just as Pre inspired us.