No runner captured the imagination like Steve Prefontaine—and no runner had a mouth quite like him, either.

His words were often as thrilling as his racing style—oozing with confidence and a lust for competition, yet also straightforward, honest and direct, which, according to everyone close to him, is the only way Pre ever knew how to be.

Below are 14 of our favorite Pre quotes.

Stay tuned for more on our month-long coverage of Steve Prefontaine. We’ll be adding new stories, videos and photos on the running legend throughout the month.


“Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”
“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.”
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
“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 style. It’s doing something better than everyone else. It’s being creative.”
“No one will ever win a 5,000-meter by running an easy two miles. Not against me.”
“The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.”
“A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding.”
“There are big odds against me. Nobody under 25 has ever won the Olympic five. But if everything goes right, whoever wins will know he has been in one helluva race.”
“I’ll tell you one thing, I love every one of them. I’ve thought about the Olympic Games every day of my life since 1968, but there is a breaking point in each race when you wonder if all the sacrifice is really worth it. You think ‘why should I do this? I don’t have to run this hard.’ But that’s when I think about them. They keep me going.”
“A lot of people run a race to see who is the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, push himself even more.”
“What I like most about track is the feeling I get after a good run.”
“What I want is to be number one.”
“I felt like I should have made my sprint earlier.”
“It really gets grim until the competition begins. You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. 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.”