Steve Prefontaine is not the best American runner in history. Although there was a moment where he held all the records, from the 2,000 to the 10,000 meters, he collected relatively few titles. What cannot be denied is the impact that Pre had on the runner’s community. His running style was very similar to his lifestyle, which reminded more of a rock star than a track star. Risky, intense, free and tough. It’s said that no one ever saw him run downhill. Bill Dillinger, one of the great trainers at the time, had heard of the running legend without having seen his face, yet recognized him instantly when he spotted him running with unbridled passion during a cross competition.
Pre was coached by Bill Bowerman, one of Nike’s founders, which made him the first elite runner to ever sport the swoosh. In 1972, Nike was born and Bowerman and Prefontaine participated in the Munich Olympic Games. If one race can resume the life of a man, it’s the 5,000 m final in 1972. Instead of securing a medal by staying inside the pack, he attacked for gold. His fourth place finish could have been satisfactory for some, but not for Pre. At that moment he started plotting his revenge: Montreal 1976.
Back in Oregon, Bill Bowerman had been thinking about Pre’s first sneakers, which had two defining characteristics. The toe had to be a single piece because stitching caused friction. Furthermore, Pre had a wide foot and his stride was very powerful, which created lot of pressure on the side of the shoe. Bowerman resolved this by adding reinforcement pieces in that zone. In the initial prototype, to win a few grams the Nike logo was just scotch tape. The problem was that when Pre started running, the tape would unstick and start flying in the opposite direction. The current version left out the spikes as it’s only useful on the track field, yet still reminds us of Pre’s reign.
The name “Pre Montreal” doesn’t mean “before Montreal”, but rather Prefontaine shortened as he would face his upcoming exploit, the 1976 Olympic Games. A few months before he could compete there, a tragic car accident would leave us without his races, but would encourage us for a thousand more.
You can take home this illustration when you buy our Nike Pre Montreal. Just enter the SZ9 code in our shopping cart. Follow the rest of our sneakeroots series, in collaboration with the seize9 blog, who brings you the best sneaker stories (in Spanish!).