25 Inspirational Steve “Pre” Prefontaine Quotes

Written by Katie

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Steve “Pre” Prefontaine’s death. He was a runner, a pusher of boundaries, and best of all, an inspiration to people all around the world. He was an individual that helped to spark one of the most successful fitness apparel brands (Nike), and helped to ignite a global running culture.

Pre, is hailed as a running legend, not because of his perfect form, or athletic ability, but because of the guts, passion, and confidence he brought to his sport. Pre was an American middle and long distance runner. He competed in the 1972 Olympics and once held the American record in seven different distance track events. Tragically he died at the young age of 24, in a car accident.

Each year to pay tribute to his legacy, Hayward Field hosts the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. A now famous and premier track and field event that attracts the best athletes in the United States and from around the world where Nike has been the primary sponsor since 1978.

Some of the most famous and inspirational sports related quotes have come from Pre. To commemorate him, I’ve put together my favourite Steve “Pre” Prefontaine quotes.

The Essence of Pre says it the best “The essence of a great Pre quote: humility mixed with wide-eyed excitement, a dash of showmanship and a bit of swagger”. The reason I (and so many others) relate so well to Pre, is that he was just real. He believed that hard work and determination will get you far. He also proved that even if the odds are stacked against you (ie. you may not have the right body type/technique for running) , you can in fact run, and run well. He was honest, and said exactly what was on his mind, good or bad. He brought confidence, a strong competitive nature, and was never afraid. He truly ran free.

Here’s hoping one of these quotes will provide you with some hint of inspiration and motivation the next time you get out there and run.

Pre, you were taken from the party too soon.

Top 25 Steve “Pre” Prefontaine Quotes


25. How does a kid from Coos Bay, with one leg longer than the other win races? All my life people have been telling me, ‘You’re too small Pre’, ‘You’re not fast enough Pre’, ‘Give up your foolish dream Steve’. But they forgot something, I HAVE TO WIN.

24. There are big odds against me. Nobody under 25 has ever won the Olympic five. But if everything goes right, whoever wins will know he has been in one helluva race.

23. No one will ever win a 5,000-meter by running an easy two miles. Not against me.

22. I’ve been in international competition, and now I know what the big boys can do. You don’t go out and just run. There’s an offense and a defense.

21. A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.


20. Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’

19. It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.

18. I’m going to work so that it’s a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it.

17. My philosophy is that I’m an artist. I perform an art not with a paint brush or a camera. I perform with bodily movement. Instead of exhibiting my art in a museum or a book or on canvas, I exhibit my art in front of the multitudes.

16. A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.


15. Kids made fun of me because I was a slow learner, because I was hyperactive, because of a lot of things. Running gave me confidence.

14. A lot of people run a race to see who is the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, push himself even more.

13. I don’t just go out there and run. I like to give people watching something exciting.

12. Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.

11. The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.


10. Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.

9. When people go to a track meet, they’re looking for something, a world record, something that hasn’t been done before. You get all this magnetic energy, people focusing on one thing at the same time. I really get excited about it. It makes me want to compete even more. It makes it all worthwhile, all the hours of hard work.

8. Nobody likes tainted victories.

7. What I want is to be number one.

6. What I like most about track is the feeling I get after a good run.


5. I’ll tell you one thing, I love every one of them. I’ve thought about the Olympic Games every day of my life since 1968, but there is a breaking point in each race when you wonder if all the sacrifice is really worth it. You think ‘why should I do this? I don’t have to run this hard.’ But that’s when I think about them. They keep me going.

4. You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

3. Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

2. Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.


1. To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.

About the author


Founder and Creator of Why I Run.

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