I spent most of my freshman year of high school in Newark, NJ chasing the elusive milestone of running a sub-5 minute mile.
You didn’t need to look far for running inspiration at Essex Catholic High School. My teammate was Steve Liquori whose older brother Marty had set the school record of 3:59 (!) 4 years earlier at a level few colleges could boast at the time.
But the runner who really fueled the ambitions of this 14 year old was Steve Prefontaine.
My amazing mom secretly bought a subscription for me to Track & Field News and the first issue arrived at our home the day before the last race of my freshman year. I devoured it that evening, and for some reason an article about Steve Prefontaine inspired me so much that I barely slept that evening.
Though sleep deprived I rode the fuel of that inspiration to a huge breakthrough win the next day with a 4:49 mile. When I look back over many special running memories this race stands out as one of the most satisfying.
But the story doesn’t end here.
This naïve 14 year old decided to write a letter to Steve Prefontaine in the long shot hope that maybe he’d read it. I have no idea what address I sent it to (maybe to the University of Oregon?) and I don’t remember what I wrote.
Well, magic happened.
A couple of weeks later a handwritten letter arrived at our Nutley, NJ home from Steve Prefontaine himself!
People often ask me why I volunteer so much time to our sport and more recently why I started AthleteBiz. I guess it’s not a stretch to say I’m still riding the high that came from receiving that letter.
Thank you Pre.
May 30, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of Steve Prefontaine’s death.