Looking back on three Decades of running the Pre

Looking back on three Decades of running the Pre

COOS BAY, Ore. -For thirty years now, the legend of Coos Bay's own Steve Prefontaine is brought back to the forefront with a run through the streets.

And as hundreds prepare for this weekends Annual Pre Memorial Run, some surely for the first time, there are others who have made the pilgrimage every year.

Jerry Worthen and Mike Lehman are two of only four runners who have competed in every Prefontaine Memorial Run for the past 30 years. 

Both classmates of Steve at Marshfield High School, Worthen says for him, distance running is synonymous with Pre.

"There's a real connection with Pre that's motivated me to keep running," says Worthen.  "I think of Steve often when I'm running and I'm hurting and it'd like to stop."

A running icon and Olympic athlete, Pre held every American record from 2 Miles to 10,000 Meters before he was killed in a car accident in 1975.
    
But the legend of Pre started right here, on this 10,000 Meter course,  which according to Worthen, is no easy jaunt.

"Anywhere you run around here you're going to encounter hills.  A lot of the flat landers from the valley come down here and when the hills come up on them, you'll pass a lot of them, they're walking."

A tradition that started back in 1979, these runners tell us only a few things have changed over the years.

According to Lehman, "He looks a lot older now then he did 30 years ago."
"I feel a lot older," adds Worthen.
    
All kidding aside, they say they've seen a noticeable turn from a competitive run to a more, fun community event.  For instance, Worthen says you don't see many big name pro's coming down here like you did in the beginning.

"What you do see is I follow Steve Prefontaine, I wanted to come run the course," says Lehman. "And I bet many people say yes, because I wanted to see what he trained on."

And now 30 years into the tradition, many of this year's runners were not even alive when Pre competed.  But according to Worthen, when you're back here on the training course, he still speaks to you.

"They still draw an inspiration from Steve's running, from his spirits," says Worthen.  "Somehow it just inspires people to keep running."

The Pre starts this Saturday, September 19, at 4th and Anderson in Coos Bay.

You can still register right up to the start of the race, forms are available online at www.prefontainerun.com or you can stop off and pick one up at the Coos Bay Visitor Center, Farr's True Value Hardware or Huggins Insurance.