Mile News

Leading Men: Bill Bowerman & Steve Prefontaine

April 02, 2006

At their first goal-setting session, Prefontaine announced to Bowerman that it was great that Bill was the finest coach of Milers, because that was the race he wanted to ultimately rule. Bowerman asked how fast he hoped to run. Pre said, “3:48.”

By Kenny Moore, Runner’s World, April 2006

fter the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Bill Bowerman hung his serape and sombrero on a nail and thought about how to make the best use of the next four years. One of his top priorities was to get more help for his University of Oregon track program. Bowerman had had dozens of graduate assistants in the 19 years he had been coaching at Oregon, but never a fully paid position. Perhaps the time was right to remedy that condition.

Bowerman decided to hire Bill Dellinger away from Lane Community College. Dellinger was an Oregon grad, a former Bowerman runner, and, in 1964, a bronze medalist in the Olympic 5000 meters. As a coach, “Dellinger was good in the running events. He’d tell his boys that when you get really fit, running’s easy, running’s like brushing your teeth,” Bowerman said. “Of course, that wasn’t training. Training is like having your teeth cleaned an hour a day.” Dellinger would be the first of Bill’s assistants to work directly with runners of distance. In the fall of 1968 that was significant, because entering his senior year at Marshfield High in Coos Bay was one Steven Roland Prefontaine.

In the spring of 1968, as a high school junior in Coos Bay, Oregon, Prefontaine had set the state 2-Mile record of 9:01.3. Bowerman had arranged for two of his Oregon runners, the 2-Miler Arne Kvalheim and the Miler Roscoe Divine, to take a 10-mile training run with Pre. “I had just beaten [Gerry] Lindgren with my 8:33 national record,” recalled Kvalheim who was from Norway, “and Roscoe was in 3:57 shape, and this kid took us out on the beach and kept saying, ‘Am I going too fast for you? Can you keep up?’”

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Tags: steve prefontaine (14) , bill bowerman (10)

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