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40 Fast-Paced Steve Prefontaine Quotes You Can Take and Run With

If you are like me, you might ask yourself, “Who is Steve Prefontaine, and what is he famous for?” Or you might be like my husband who exclaimed gleefully, “Oh, you’re writing about Steve Prefontaine,” when he saw these Steve Prefontaine quotes on the computer.

The difference is my husband is a runner who ran cross-country in high school, while I was a swimmer who despised running. It doesn’t surprise me he is a fan of someone who has been called the greatest American distance runner in history. 

When he was in junior high, Prefontaine was on the football team but didn’t get to play because he was so small. Then one day he saw some high school kids practicing on the track. At first, he thought this activity looked boring, but then while conditioning in gym class, he realized how fast he was.

Just how fast was he? Steve Prefontaine’s fastest mile was 3:54.6, which seems ridiculously quick to me! He was the 9th fastest runner at that time and had a lot to say about racing and running. 

Don’t forget to also check out these running quotes to motivate you to stay active.

Steve Prefontaine quotes about running

1. “What I like most about the track is the feeling I get inside after a good run.” — Steve Prefontaine

2. “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.” — Steve Prefontaine

3. “Every once in a while I think, ‘What am I doing out here running, busting myself up? Life could be so much easier. The other guys are out having fun, doing other things, why not me?'” — Steve Prefontaine

4. “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.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” — Steve Prefontaine

5. “I don’t just go out there and run. I like to give people watching something exciting.” — Steve Prefontaine

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6. “Did you ever run behind a slow pack? You get a trailing wind and a lot of body odor.” — Steve Prefontaine

7. “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.” — Steve Prefontaine

8. “I’ve been in an 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.” — Steve Prefontaine

9. “It’s hard to run a mile when you’re not a miler and to kick when you’ve led all the way.” — Steve Prefontaine

Steve Prefontaine quote about races and leading

10. “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”. — Steve Prefontaine

11. “A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.” — Steve Prefontaine

12. “If I lose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself. But if it’s a slow pace, and I get beaten by a kicker who leaches off the front, then I’ll always wonder, ‘What if…?'” — Steve Prefontaine

13. “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into an exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” — Steve Prefontaine

14. “Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.” — Steve Prefontaine

15. “Something inside of me just said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,’ and I just took off.” — Steve Prefontaine

16. “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.” — Steve Prefontaine

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17. “I used to say, ‘Hey, man, what kind of a stupid question is that?’ to a newspaperman asking me heavy things right after a race when I’m still in an emotional state. Now I at least try to answer.” — Steve Prefontaine

18. “If I want to go to Europe and get thrashed by the Europeans, that’s my business. Every race I lose, I learn from and get tougher.” — Steve Prefontaine

Inspirational Steve Prefontaine quotes

19. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” — Steve Prefontaine

20. “It’s not who’s the best – it’s who can take the most pain.” — Steve Prefontaine

21. “Nobody likes tainted victories.” — Steve Prefontaine

22. “I knew I had to show everybody that I could excel at something. But I didn’t know what.” — Steve Prefontaine

23. “I decided that if I was going to continue in track, that I didn’t want to lose, that I wasn’t going to lose.” — Steve Prefontaine

24. “It doesn’t feel that good when you’re ahead the whole way.” — Steve Prefontaine

25. “You probably choose x-country because you were too small to play football.” — Steve Prefontaine

26. “If you can make money with your talents, why not?” — Steve Prefontaine

These Steve Prefontaine quotes exude confidence

27. “No one will ever win a 5,000-meter by running an easy two miles. Not against me.” — Steve Prefontaine

28. “If anybody wants to beat me, let them run a world record.” — Steve Prefontaine

29. “I have a positive mental attitude, and I think I’m divine, but I also think it takes a heck of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.” — Steve Prefontaine

30. “My philosophy is that I’m an artist. I perform an art, not with a paintbrush 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.” — Steve Prefontaine

31. “What I want is to be number one.” — Steve Prefontaine

32. “If he’s having a good day and running the right race, nobody can beat Frank Shorter at 10,000 meters… nobody except me.” — Steve Prefontaine

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More Steve Prefontaine quotes

33. “I know places you better speak low if you’ve been to college. Men will come across the room and cold-deck you if you hold your glass wrong.” — Steve Prefontaine

34. “I’m the one who has made all the sacrifices. Those are my American records, not the country’s.” — Steve Prefontaine

35. “Why shouldn’t I do what I want to do… I’m an American citizen.” — Steve Prefontaine

36. “To hell with love of country – I compete for myself.” — Steve Prefontaine

37. “If the Olympics come around, and I’m in shape, then I’ll compete. But I won’t be representing the United States; I’ll be representing myself.” — Steve Prefontaine

38. “I don’t care about being on television.” — Steve Prefontaine

39. “World records at 19. I don’t want that. Later, yes. And when it comes, I’ll learn to live with it, but it won’t be my first love.” — Steve Prefontaine

40. “People say I should be running for a gold medal for the old red, white and blue and all that bull, but it’s not gonna be that way.” — Steve Prefontaine

Which of these Steve Prefontaine quotes resonated with you best?

Steve Prefontaine came in fourth, missing out on a medal during his first run at the Olympics. He was training for the 1976 Munich Olympic games, but sadly, wouldn’t make it.

After a racing event on May 29th, 1975, in which Prefontaine won a 5,000-meter race, he was tragically killed in a car accident. He had been partying with some Finnish athletes and left around midnight.

His too-short life has been the topic of two movies: Without Limits and Prefontaine. Sadly, after nearly 40 years, his last standing trial record was beaten in 2012 by Galen Rupp. Steve didn’t just make records though, he is also responsible for changing the way the AAU treated athletes.

Which of these Steve Prefontaine quotes and sayings resonated with you best? Do you have a favorite ‘Pre’ quote that didn’t make the list? Leave it in the comment section below!

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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