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Reflections: Eugene, Prefontaine, Losing everything

IMG-20120626-00007.jpg  IMG-20120625-00003.jpg        My latest Blog I spoke of the fire, mostly, which devastated my part of town on the last day of what was a perfect 5 day vacation to tracktown USA, Eugene, Oregon.  Now comes time to talk of this little getaway we took.

      My husband and I always wanted to visit Eugene and, after reading Steve Prefontaine Books and after watching Steve Prefontaine movies, so did my son.  First of all, who doesn't love Steve Prefontaine?  Especially to runners, such an endearing figure, the same type of symbol to running as the Beatles or Elvis  were to music.  That one in millions and millions that will live forever in our hearts, generation after generation.  More profound in the Prefontaine story are the age and timing of his tragic death. At only 24 years old we lost an icon in a tragic car accident.  A rock stands there, at the site of the crash. We visited that rock with my Aunt Chris and cousin Juniper (non-runners, who in our search for the iconic rock, said numerous times, "where is this f'in rock?").  We found it, along with a few Pre admiriers that day along the country road in Eugene, and around it is shoes, medals, pictures - a continual feed of givings from his adoring fans.

      Prefontaine was born to a lower class family in Coos Bay, Oregon in 1951, and came along as a runner in the beginning of the running boom.  His parents were pretty much the opposite of what we call "helicopter" today (they watched him run for the first time only after being coaxed by a neighbor who implied they should come since Pre was "what Olympic stuff is made of").  Afterall, running was not real glamourous back then.

Steve was material in changing that.  After his immedate success as a runner in high school and then in college at University of Oregon, he was very accustomed to winning races based on this extreme talent and guts.  He spiraled into a depression in his post-collegaite career after coming in fourth place at the Muncih Olympics in 1972.  He trained alone and avoided races for 2 years after that, living in a trailer, so poor he qualified for food stamps in the day where professional runners got very little, if any, monetary support for their efforts.   Steve finally recovered psychologically and had an electric race with Olympic Medalist Frank Shorter - on the day of this death.   That day seemed to be the beginning of his comeback, yet marked the end of his life.

       Before our runs along Pre trail, a tree-barked soft trail made in Pre's honor after his death (he wanted the US to have more dirt trails like Europe did back then), we circled up and yelled  "Pre Lives!".

       Eugene,  a simple, energetic, friendly, and very "green minded" community, still feels Pre's message each day.

      As we stay motivated in this 5 week gap until the last leg of the Triple Crown (Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon), I would encourage watching the Olympic track and field events during the London Games which start July 27 and end Aug 12.   Look for our local racewalker from Colorado College (I personally would like to see race walking become bigger here in Colorado Springs--I have grown very interested in learning more about its techniques during times of injury but have found no one locally to coach me to learn more---these guys walk far faster than even the best of us can run), our local Jenny Barringer (who asked we all pray for the victims of the Waldo Canyon Fire after she qualified for the 1500--nice little gesture from Jenny)--watch marathoner Kara Goucher, wife of local legend Adam Goucher--and then pick your own favorites and be inspired by them.  I personally like our male steeplechaser, Evan Jager, because he reminds me of the cross country runner in the movie Juno. There is also CU's female steeplechaser, Emma Coburn. I Also like 800 meter runner Nick Symmonds due to his pure talent and come- from- behind- to -win style.  We got to watch many of these runners in person, and saw them out for their morning jogs while we were on the group runs during our Eugene visit. 

    I personally am happy enough with my Summer Roundup race--a 14 minute improvement over last year when I had to walk much of the thing due to severe sciatica. In fact, I am so grateful to have been chosen for this PikespeakSports. us team, because if not chosen I would have bagged racing the Garden and SummerRoundup altogether after losing confidence that I could race again.  Being chosen for the team gave me that little push I needed to pick myself up, brush myself off, and get back out there and try again.  So a second big thank you to Tim, Mike and Ron for this opportunity. I am totally getting my butt kicked in my agegroup and thought that turning 50 next year and going into a new age group might help---but then I noticed I would have placed the same there now.  Teamate John Teisher taught me to only pity race performance for one minute, and it actually just took me longer than that to type this paragraph.


I am also slowly recovering from the devastation of the fire in our west-side community.  A few friends houses did burn down.  They lost most everything.  One of these friends is moving to..... Oregon.  Looks like things will probably turn out okay for her after all. And when she moves there I hope she remembers PRE, who lost his life, far too young, and even though he was dirt poor, had his health and his gift - and that is what he is remembered for...


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