“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 a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else.” – Steve Prefontaine
Running fans from all over travel to Coos Bay, Oregon each year to get a glimpse of home of one of the greatest running legends of all time: Steve Prefontaine. Steve’s tenacity and style helped fuel the running craze born in the 1970s and captured the imagination of millions of fans around the world.
Famed University of Oregon Track Coach and future Nike co-founder and running shoe designer, Bill Bowerman, took notice and successfully recruited Pre to the U of O. During his short but brilliant career, Pre set 14 American records and earned international fame. His goal was to compete and win the Gold Medal in at the Montreal Games of 1976 but died tragically in a car accident on May 30, 1975.
Though he lived for just 24 years, Steve made an enormous impact on the sports world and Oregon history. We hold a very special place for Steve here in Coos Bay where he was born in 1951 and discovered his gift for running fast and far as a student at Marshfield High School. Many members of our community knew Steve personally, and enjoy sharing their memories of him growing up and watching him transform into an elite athlete with celebrity status.
Jay Farr is one of our community members who knew Steve as a friend, teammate and classmate. Jay, also a runner, is a 1969 graduate of Marshfield High School who went on to graduate from Yale. He returned here and took over as the head of of Farr’s True Value Hardware in Coos Bay. Jay has also been the Head Cross Country Coach at Marshfield and is a founding member of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee.
Jay begins each morning with a run in and around Coos Bay and will frequently bring along Coos Bay visitors and Steve Prefontaine fans who want to experience a more personal side of their hero. He takes visitors back to Marshfield High School where the two graduated in 1969 and set numerous records (Steve still holds many of the records still on display at MHS). Fans of “Pre” can also still see Steve’s childhood home and elementary school- and the track at their middle school where Steve’s passion and drive for the sport was born.
Coos Bay is filled with memories of Pre. There is a series of historical bronze plaques throughout the city, each containing an image of Steve Prefontaine and a different quote or record that he held.
To get personal accounts of Pre’s life- plan to stop by Farr’s True Value Hardwaret 880 S. 1st St to meet Jay Farr and maybe even arrange to go on one of his runs with him. I promise the experience is worth it! You can also stop by Huggins Insurance at 445 Elrod Avenue, Coos Bay and meet Bob Huggins, Executive Director of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee who has an amazing collection of Pre’s memorabilia on display.