Mile News

What Makes Pre So Special

May 21, 2015

For them, Pre ran his workout Mile in 3:58.3 and coughed blood at the end. And then, his lungs gravely wounded, he found a bullhorn and thanked the people for their support.

By Jeff Johnson, Competitor

Although Steve Prefontaine continues to be widely remembered, idolized and celebrated 40 years after his fatal car accident in May 1975, few think as highly of him as Jeff Johnson.

Before he became Nike’s very first paid employee (among other innovations, he came up with the name “Nike”), Johnson was a renowned photographer for Track & Field News, where he first came into contact with the high school running prodigy from Coos Bay, Oregon. Over the next several years, as Johnson shot some of the most enduring action photos of Prefontaine, and then later worked with him at a fledgling running shoe company that featured waffle-iron outsoles, Johnson became a huge admirer of Pre, and frequently speaks about him to Nike employees, high school track teams and runners of all ages.

“Pre was an enormous force in the lives of those who saw him,” Johnson says now. “And I wanted to capture a sliver of that experience for young people, because there’s never been anyone like him since.”

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