The Prefontaine Legacy

The lore and legend of world-class runner Steve Prefontaine lives on with a new biographical book and documentary.

Oregon Running Legend Steve Prefontaine is 158 pages and is available from Arcadia Publishing for $23.99 plus shipping.

The Book: Prefontaine & His Places

A new book chronicles the life and accomplishments of running legend Steve “Pre” Prefontaine. Oregon Running Legend Steve Prefontaine, published earlier this year by Arcadia Publishing and the History Press, covers Pre’s rise to cross-country and track superstardom that began in his Oregon Coast hometown of Coos Bay.

The book is organized by chapters that follow Pre to each of the important places he lived or visited as he racked up national recognition in high school followed by state, national, and world records. From the track of University of Oregon’s famous Hayward Field to a fourth-place finish in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, he relentlessly worked to make his mark on the world. Fifty years later, his name still conjures up images of athleticism, activism, and charisma. While his life tragically ended in a car accident at the age of 24—at which time he owned every American record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters and 2 to 6 miles—his legacy lives on, especially in the places where he competed. Perhaps lesser known but even more important, was his dedication to advancing the sport of running and advocating for athletes within the U.S.

Forwards provided by three-time Olympian and University of Oregon coach Bill Dellinger and Pat Tyson, who was Steve’s roommate and teammate, provide additional personal insight and details on Steve Prefontaine and his importance within the sports sphere.

Author Paul C. Clerici is a runner who wrote the bestselling book, Born to Coach: The Story of Bill Squares, along with several other running-related books and articles. He is also a lecturer, media guest, documentary film contributor, photographer, and former newspaper sports editor.

The Documentary: Pre’s People

Billed as a documentary about America’s legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine, Pre’s People executive producers Travis Johnson and Brad Jenkins were steeped in the legend of Prefontaine from an early age. They both grew up in Pre’s hometown, Coos Bay, and Jenkins saw him run. They wanted to depict Pre “as seen through the eyes of his faithful fans,” and so they interviewed 50 people from around the country. There have been other movies about Steve Prefontaine and his accomplishments, but the producers also wanted the documentary to be about “the people of the small, blue-collar town of Coos Bay, Oregon and how his rugged hometown surroundings shaped him.”

“Coos Bay is so special because this is where he was forged,” says one interviewee in Pre’s People. The documentary features new photos and never-before seen footage of Prefontaine.

Pre’s People was released on Vimeo in 2021, and runs 2 hours and 7 minutes. Producers hope to inspire a new generation of distance runners and bolster Pre’s hometown high school athletes. A portion of the documentary proceeds go to the Marshfield High School Track and Cross Country programs. Pre’s People can be purchased or rented via Vimeo On Demand. More information and links are available on the Pre’s People website.