Steve Prefontaine was a Bad. Ass. (Samuel L. Jackson would refer to him in another way, but this is a family blog). He was a runner who pushed himself in every race. He was also a bit of an arrogant bastard, too, but then again, when you’re a world class runner… you can be.
This movie, Without Limits stars Billy Crudup as Prefontaine. And it basically starts with Prefontaine as a high school senior being recruited by every college in the country. He winds up University of Oregon and the movie covers his life from then till his death at the age of 24. I know what you’re thinking… this is a movie about Steve Prefontaine as a person… it’s about his childhood, what made him so determined and strong willed, and that it’s about his relationship with a girl or his parents… But you know what? It’s not! It’s actually about his running career! I mean, sure there are some subplots about those things… but the film is basically about Prefontaine and the way that he competed. So, this is really a runner’s movie.
Prefontaine was apart of the running boom of the 1970s. (You’re thinking about Forrest Gump aren’t you?? Sheesh). He was basically a 5,000 meter race runner. Now, I never ran track and field… but apparently, 5,000 meters is considered an endurance event? (Okay, I’m staying away from that one). This movie showed his interaction with his fellow teammates, who, quite honestly, must have thought he was a total jerk. Everything was a competition to him… not just the races, but practices, too. He was always looking to be number one… to gain an edge and that’s pretty inspiring..
His coach at Oregon, Bill Bowerman, played by Donald Sutherland, has his own subplot in the movie… Bowerman actually started the company that is Nike today. And he was constantly using his wife’s waffle iron to make his athletes new shoes. Pretty crazy to imagine… a track coach making shoes. It makes sense though… and he must be a multi-billionaire at this point.
This movie didn’t try to turn Prefontaine into a saint. Because he wasn’t. He was just a kid. A really talented kid. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot regarding the olympics and how he died, etc… But it is an inspiring story. Inspiring in such a way that he pushed himself to the limit everytime he raced… He left everything out on the track during a race.
The only thing you’re left wondering at the end of the movie… is… what could have been if he had lived just a few more months… oh and also… how many seconds he could have shaved off his times if he’d cut his hair.
"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."
-- Steve Prefontaine (my favorite quotation of his)