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A new poster of
Steve Prefontaine

< Available Now!

A Letter From "Pre" Captures
A Moment In American Running History

On April 9, 1975, Steve Prefontaine wrote a letter to a relatively unknown, but up and coming runner named Bill Rodgers.  Within weeks of that day Rodgers would burst on to the world stage of running, and Pre would tragically leave it.

Steve Prefontaine was at the height of his running career. He had set every American record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters.  He had competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics at age 21 and was preparing for the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976.

Pre was also an employee of an athletic shoe company started by his college coach, Bill Bowerman.  That company was Nike.

Bill Rodgers was an unemployed school teacher and a talented runner who had returned to competition after a two year layoff. Bill had run well in college, breaking 9 minutes for the 2 mile, but he had lost motivation and drifted away from running after leaving school.  His return to running had brought him to the edge of world-class status.  

He surprised even his coach by finishing 3rd in the World Cross-Country Championships in March of 1975 in Rabat, Morocco. Bill's impressive performance caught the attention of many in the running community, including Pre, and led to the following letter.

(Note: The graphic was not part of the original letter, we just thought it looked cool.)

April 9, 1975    

Mr. Bill Rodgers     
Jamaica Plain, Mass. 02130

Dear Bill,

First of all congratulations on a fine race in Rabat. You have really improved this last year and hopefully will continue to until the Olympic games.

The reason I'm writing is because Jeff Galloway told me you were interested in training in our shoes. I'm sending you a pair of Boston 73's and a training shoe. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Just feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Wishing you continued success for 75.


Steve Prefontaine


This was a typed letter hand-signed by Pre.  Bill would wear the shoes sent by Pre the following week in the Boston Marathon.  His brother Charlie said that they were better than anything Bill had at the time and he wore them even though they were a little too large for him.
Boston Billy, "King of the Roads" was born during that 1975 Boston Marathon as Bill Rodgers had his breakthrough performance, running to a new American and Course Record time of 2:09:55.  Because the shoes were a bit big for him Bill had to stop twice in the final miles to tighten them, to the surprise and shock of the spectators and the press.

21 days after that race Steve Prefontaine would tragically die in a car crash.

The original Nike shoes and the letter written and signed by Pre are on display at Bill Rodgers Running Center at North Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts.

Ask one of the staff to point them out.

1998 Running Past. All rights reserved. E-mail address mail@runningpast.com

Related feature: Steve Prefontaine - The Value of a Legend

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