Without Limits (1998) - full transcript

The film follows the life of famous 1970s runner Steve Prefontaine from his youth days in Oregon to the University of Oregon where he worked with the legendary coach Bill Bowerman, later to Olympics in Munich and his early death at 24 in a car crash.

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Bobby, let's take a pan left now.


Your other left.


Close that door.

Stand by to cue the suits.
We're coming to 6 next.

Get the VTls ready.

Thank you.

All right. lrvo, you're on 228.

Philly, you're on 904.

Johnny, you're on 274.
And Vic, on 61.

Ready to cue Jones.

Cue Jones! Take 6!

Hello, and welcome to
the Olympic Stadium.

This is Charlie Jones,
along with Fred Long...

... for the men's 5000 meters.

An absolutely gorgeous day.

This race has the potential to be...

... the most competitive
of the men's track competition.

Is Viren the favorite?

He has to be. He's been running
the best of anyone for 6 weeks.

And he is the current
10,000 meter champion.

He has the psychological edge.

Here he is, winning in
world-record time just a few days ago.

I have no specific tactic.
I'm just ready when the race starts.

Take 1! Wipe it in.

This is the greatest 5000 meter
field in Olympic history.

10 of these men have set
world records or won championships.

Bring it in!

There's a reason it was the longest
distance in the ancient Olympics.

Run the 5000, and you share something
with those who've run it before.

- What is that?
- Pain.

13 minutes of pain that only they know.

So it'll be a Finnish policeman,
a Belgian gardener, a Tunisian soldier...

... and ironically, here in Munich,
from Coos Bay, Oregon...

... a millworker's son raised
in a German-speaking household.

When I talked to Stewart
and Prefontaine...

... I asked them how they thought
the race might unfold.

It'll probably be down to Viren
and myself, with Prefontaine...

...trying to chase us down.

I'd like to
work it out so that...

... in the end, it comes down to
a pure guts race.

Stand by, 4!

If it is,
I'm the one who'll win.

14 qualifiers,
13 on the starting line.

Mariano Haro of Spain has withdrawn.

5000 meters.

12 and a half laps for the gold medal.

The gun is up.

In the fair start,
the thirteen finalists...


... Altius...

... Fortius. "

It means: Faster...

... Higher...

... Stronger.

It's been the motto
for the Olympics for 2500 years.

But it doesn't mean
faster, higher and stronger...

... than those you compete against.

Just "Faster...

... Higher...


One runner brought this home to me.

From the beginning...

... I tried to change him.

And from the beginning...

... he tried not to change.

That was our relationship.

And even that never changed.

He couldn't stand a crowd.

Always wanted to race out front.

Like he was trying to
get away from something.

Where and when this compulsion
came from...

... no one can say for sure.

Like Plato and his tale...

... of the world's creation,
I won't say absolutely...

... this is the truth.

But I will say...

... it is a likely story.

We're going to get you!
You better run, boy!

- Run!
- Little German boy!

You're surrounded, you little Kraut!

Your mama's not here now!

There's no way of getting out!
You're surrounded!

Get back here, you Heinz!

Where are you going now?
You're going to get tired!

Your mama ain't here now!
We're right on your heels!

You get him.

Get him, get him, get him!

There he is.
l got him, l got him!

This is being left to
the fastest miler.

Prefontaine believes it's him.

So the American is now committed.

The American in front,
almost a cult in the U.S.

A sort of athletic Beatle.
There are T-shirts saying, "Go Pre."

There goes Pre.
Maybe this is it.

You can't catch me.

You'll never catch me.
You don't have the guts.

l haven't seen Prefontaine.

How am l supposed to pick him
out of 200 runners?

You'll see him.

Holy shit!

lf Bowerman doesn't believe
in recruiting, why are we here?

Because Bowerman doesn't
believe in recruiting.

So he has us do it.

This is it.

Well, today you can
leave your shoes in the car.

They're here.

K enny Moore. Sixteenth in
the marathon in Mexico City.

Fourteenth, actually.

And Roscoe Devine.

A 3:57 mile...

...when Jim Ryan ran a 3:56:5.

God, is there anything worse
than being second best?

Thanks for coming to see me.

Mr. Dellinger.

How about an easy 10?

We left our running shoes in the car.

Want me to get them for you?

My mom's inside,
if you want something to eat.

Great, thanks.

Boy, it sure lets you know
Bowerman's a legend.

Steve's room is like a shrine to Bill.

Oregon is the land of the Bill coaches.

Bill Hayward, Bill Dellinger...

...Bill Bowerman.

You want my boy to go
to the University?

Very much so.
Steve's a very special kid.

- This pace too fast for you?
- No, it's fine.

l realize l should've
started my kick sooner...

...but l still finished with an 8:41:5,
which set a national record.

Oh, man!

Actually, you might be surprised...

...but that's kind of why we're here.

- Word of talent gets around.
- Talent has nothing to do with it.

Sorry, guys.

l should've let you know
l was turning.

Hey, no sweat.

l'm going to get this kid.

Steve, what about coming to Oregon?

Does Bowerman want me?

- Absolutely.
- Oregon's the place for you.

But not enough to ask me himself?

He considers the most valuable thing
the University offers is education.

Anything else is almost immoral.

We're no big deal.

My Ray works as a carpenter,
Steve at a gas station.

After school, he can become
an insurance adjuster...

...right here in Coos Bay.

We have no time for
dreams we can't afford.

There's no cost involved.

Except dreams
that won't come true.

That's a price he's not going to pay.

Mrs. Prefontaine...

...your boy is Olympic stuff.

Mr. Dellinger...

...she's not going to be convinced
about me running anywhere.

Not at...


...or Pennsylvania or lowa...

...Villanova, Brown...


But she doesn't have to be convinced.

l do.

Only one guy at Oregon can do that,
and he hasn't bothered to try.

His recruiting philosophy...

Mr. Dellinger, l've got 3 weeks
to sign my letter of intent...

...before l lose my slot
at any worthwhile college.

So here's my philosophy:

l don't go near Eugene unless
Bowerman personally tells me...

...he wants me.

l know. l understand that,
Bill, please, but...

Bill, please listen to me,
for God's sake.

Everybody in the country...

...is offering him the moon.

All he wants from you
is one word...

...to know you want to coach him.

That's it.
He just wants to know.


Just get an education.

That would be nice too.

If you do us the honor of attending
the University of Oregon...

... there is no doubt...

... that you can be the nation's
finest distance runner.

Perhaps the world's.

Sincerely, William J. Bowerman.

Yes, sir!

lt's good that way. You'll have
3 classes in a row, then a break.

Excuse me! l'm sorry!

Where is McArthur Court?
Do you know?


Thank you!

You're welcome.

Numb nuts!

Hey, Roscoe.

Here l am. l made it.

So is everybody here
to see Bowerman?

ls that where he is?

Right behind there.

Does everybody here run distance?

Maybe you could give me
a couple of tips about Bowerman.

He's a little touchy.

- About what?
- Working out too hard.

Or not hard enough.

lt all depends on who.

He caught Bob sweeping his church.
Kicked him off a week.

Just praying would be all right.
Sweeping's too much like work.


He was in ltaly, World War ll,
10th Mountain Division.

He negotiated the surrender
of the 8th German army.

All 8,000 of them.

When he commands...

...you obey.

l'm not them, and l'm
not here to surrender.

Yes, sir.

Over here.

Take off your shoe.

Your right one.

Put it down.

Put your foot on here.

You make everybody's shoes?

Everybody that runs.

Why? Cost?


What's a good miler's stride?

Two yards.

That's 880 steps.

Take an ounce off a shoe...

...that's 880 ounces.

ln a mile, that's 55 pounds
of weight you don't have to carry.

What a good idea.

That's 110 pounds,
if you count both feet.

l already counted both feet.
Lift your foot, damn it.

Sorry, coach.

You don't call me coach.

The meanest son of a bitch l ever met...

...insisted on being called that.

As we all know, l'm a...

...kind and forbearing man.

Welcome to the University of Oregon.
l'm Bill Bowerman.

l know.

l'm Steve Prefontaine.

l know.

Take off your other shoe, Steve.

The University of Oregon's
physical education building...

... was set on fire.
It's believed to be in protest of...

... the Vietnam War, since
RO TC uniforms were stored there.

Bob, what time is it?




Why does Bowerman
call a team meeting for 7:27?

What's wrong with 7:30?

Hold on. l'll tell him why, gentlemen.

7:27 promotes the question:

"Why 7:27?"

And everybody gets here
at 7:27 to find out why.

When students burn a campus building...

...we must disassociate
ourselves from that behavior.

l'm not suggesting that
you support the Vietnam War...

...any more than l'm suggesting
that this university should.

l'm saying your appearance
cannot be construed...

...to support a form of protest...

...that burns down the buildings...

...of the institution that feeds,
houses and sustains us all.

So we have a little
cosmetic work ahead of us.


The question before us...

...is how much to cut.

Well, Bill...

...this isn't going to be fair.

Why not?

What's the standard for how long
hair gets before it's offensive?

lt's a completely arbitrary length.


So is the length of a meter.

Does that make a 100 meter race unfair?

Of course not. Not when everyone
agrees on what the length is.

Then, let's all agree.

Nobody on the team will have
hair longer than his dick...

...which means everybody
gets a haircut, except Bob.

Why except Bob?

God's will, Steve.

God's will?

lt's just below his kneecap.

Way to go, Bob!

Men of Oregon...

...l invite you to become
students of your events.

Running, one might say...

...is basically an absurd pastime...

...upon which
to be exhausting ourselves.

But if you can find meaning...

...in the kind of running...

...you have to do
to stay on this team...

...chances are you can find
meaning in another absurd pastime:


Does this guy
ever have anything to say?

What guy? About what?

Bowerman. About running.
You know, like coaching.

When he's got something to say,
he usually says it.


Come here a minute!

Do you usually run with your butt
sticking out like that?

Stand up straight.

You want a plumb line to run
from your ear to your feet.

Let your hips relax.

That's how you were running.

Lift your knee.

Now cock your hips up under you.

Under you.

Like at the moment
of deepest penetration.

Now lift your knee.

lt's easier when you
tuck your pelvis under you.

You don't fight your body's mechanics.
Makes you more efficient.

You can put your knee down now.

Gentlemen, cardinal rule:

No racing in workouts.
We'll do a mile at 3/4 effort.

That's 4:40, max.
Everyone's able to stay together.

That's not staying together.

That's 4:30, Steve.
You're 10 seconds fast.

Your pulse is north of 190.

Just a rough guess...

...but l'd say you were exceeding
the agreed-upon speed limit, rube.

Bill, l lost a spike.


- Not the ripple soles again.
- What's wrong with them?

Digging dog shit out of them,
for one thing.

l don't want to be a guinea pig.
Give them to Moore.

Let him try them.

l'm working on something new, Roscoe.

Urethane spikes from a special mold.

Light as a feather.

Looks like you got it off a waffle iron.

lt's a very promising configuration.

l expect all my runners will try it.

Prefontaine, shown here smashing
the high school 2-mile record...

... by an amazing 7 seconds, 8:41:6...

Damn it!

Not again!

l promised the kids waffles
for Sunday brunch.


...the kids are over 25, as l recollect.

Maybe they won't be traumatized...

...if you serve them pancakes.

Those chemicals are simply overwhelming.

They can't be good for you.

What are you watching?

The kid from Coos Bay...

...that Dellinger recruited.

Pretty impressive, isn't he?

He's a front-runner. He may
get away with it in high school...

...but at the international level
of competition it's a disaster.

Tell him not to do it.
lsn't that what coaching is for?

Yes, dear.

Last spring, Prefontaine smashed
the high school 2-mile record...

... by an amazing 7 seconds.

Grant me those Stanford
3-milers are no slouches...

...especially that fellow Kardong.

Don Kardong? He's not bad.

Front-runners cut the wind for
everybody then die in the stretch.

ln a close race
a front-runner never wins.

He's not that good, either.

Put it against the window.

What are you trying to do?
Help him?

No. l hate those people
back there sucking on me.

Then why do you let them?

When you set the pace,
you control the race.

And the hare controls the hound.

lndulge me here...

...will you?


...start off easy for once in your life.

69s for the first mile.

Then drop to 67 s for the second.

Then depending on where you are
and how you feel...

l won't know that till l get there
and l'll figure it out then.

While you're doing that,
why don't you also figure out...

...what university you expect
to be running for next week.

Has it ever occurred to you there's
such a thing as over-coaching?


l'm against it.

Shut up, Mac.

ls there a plan? Steve going out fast,
burning Kardong early?

Steve's going out in 69, no faster.

Runners, gather in here
for instructions.

Stand behind the line.

l'll say, "Runners to your marks"
and "Set."

Then l'll shoot the gun.

Good luck to you all.

The 3-mile is underway.

High jump bar's been raised to 6'7".

Next up...

... Kip Leonard of Stanford.

Prefontaine moves to the
early lead in the 3-mile.

Look at that.

That freshman's Steve Prefontaine.

First call for the mile relay.
First call.

- Go, Ducks!
- Go, Steve!

Come on, Ducks!

You're not running the relay?

No, we're way up on them.

Where's everybody else?

Holy shit!

This is not a 69.

Prefontaine's first lap:

64 seconds.

Let's go check this out.

That's world-record pace.

Oregon's Bob Wobell
is on the long jump runway.


Jesus! l'm trying to jump!

ln the 3-mile, it's Prefontaine leading,
with Don Kardong second.

4: 18!

4: 18!

Steve Prefontaine's time at the mile:


Two more and he'll be close...

... to the American 3-mile record.

Two more like that
and he'll be in the hospital.

8:45, Steve!


8:45. He's never been here before.

Not with another mile to go, no.

Now at the discus ring,
leader Mac Wilkins.

Are they saying the rube's name?

Could be.

Mac Wilkins' last throw: 197.6.

A collegiate best this year.

The crowd shouldn't be encouraging
the little showboater.

We could always try
telling them to stop!

Prefontaine timed at 13:12:8.

That's the fastest 3-mile
in the world this year.

You all right, Bill?

What are you trying to tell me?

Take your victory lap before
they tear the stadium down!

Go on!

Little rube's a performer.

Little rube's a star.

So much for coaching.

For Saturday's goal-setting session...

...make Pre my last appointment.

Come in.

l'm sorry. l'm...


At least you found your way
to McArthur Court.

You remember that?

l'm Steve...

Steve Prefontaine.

Mary Marckx. Nice to meet you.

l have been looking for you for months.

You have?

What are you doing here today?
You're obviously in the wrong room.

There was an assignment that...

l'll do it later.

Want to grab a cup of coffee?

- Wait a minute.
- What?

l don't even know you.

You just said you did.

l know l just did...

...but l'm...

l'm not even dressed.

Sure you are.

Come on. Come on.

Why are you in such a hurry?

l just love coffee.

l don't even have shoes on.

How does this one feel?

Fine. Good.

- Don't say it if it doesn't fit.
- lt fits, it fits.

Would you mind getting off your knees?


A little.

l can't allow you to buy me these shoes.
l don't even know you.

But l get them for free.

That's not my point.

So what were you doing
at the dorm, anyway?

Go on.

l told you. l had to pick up
an assignment before...

l think l'm crazy about you, Mary.


Why is anybody crazy about anybody?

l asked why you're crazy about me.

There's just something
about you that l recognize.

Like "Haven't we met somewhere before?"

That we haven't met before,
but l feel we have.

Like you're a stranger,
but you're familiar.

Hey, Steve, great race.
Looking good.


What do you think about me?

l don't really think you're my type.


There you are.

Why didn't you speak up?

l didn't want to disturb you.

l thought you liked disturbing me.

You do it so well.

Sit down.

Sit down, Pre.

You know, Pre...

...it's spring...

...and l sense this is your week
to chase the ladies.

Do you object to that?

No. lf you catch them quick.

Chasing them wears the body out.

13: 12 for the 3 mile.

You satisfied?

l'm satisfied l did the best
l could on Saturday.

l think you could've gone
6 seconds better.

The first quarter cost you.

How do you figure?

4: 18 was too quick for the first mile.

So you dropped to 4:27 s
for the last two.

lf you'd gone out slower,
say a 4:24...

...you could've repeated the 4:24
and come home in 4: 18.

Made your last lap your fastest.

That would've added up to 13:06,
compared with the 13: 12 you ran.

Your need to take the lead
from the start...

...cost you a good 6 seconds.

The Olympics are in 2 years.

Blink of an eyelash.

You'll face the best middle-distance
runners in any games l can recall.

- lan Stewart...
- Kip Kano, Gammoudi...

They all have strong kicks.

Any of them would've had you
dead to rights on Saturday.

Maybe on Saturday,
but not two years from now.

Can l ask you a question,
off the record?

Were we on the record?

- Where does this compulsion come from?
- What compulsion?


Look, Bill...

...running any other way
is just plain chicken shit.

Chicken shit?

What else do you call
laying back for 21/2 miles...

...then stealing a race
in the last 200 yards?


l don't want to do that.

You don't want to win?

Not unless l've done my best.
The only way l know to do that...

...is to run out front and flat out
till l have nothing left!

Winning any other way is chicken shit!

What do you think a track coach does?

He teaches you how to run.

Run what? A factory?
A bowling alley?

- A race.
- ln order to...?

Win it.

That's pretty much what l thought too.

l don't understand you.

lf it's any help,
l don't understand you either.

Testing, testing, testing.

Drake University and Des Moines
welcome you...

... to the Track and Field Championships.

A record 741 athletes from 110
universities have qualified...

What will you throw tomorrow?

The farther the better, right?


To the gym!

Not much of a workout.

Hay's in the barn.
Any work you do today...

...takes away from the race tomorrow.

Gentlemen, the race for
team title's going to be tight.

The team that scratches and claws
for every unexpected point will win.

So we're going to enter the 440 relay.

Something wrong?

l just felt a little dizzy.

l keep telling you this heat can
fool you. You must stay hydrated.

Go get a drink.

Sure thing.

Anybody else need a drink?

That is some rug burn, cutie.

You got them on both knees?

- l guess so.
- We've got to protect those babies.

We could try using the bed.

l got a better idea.

Get over here.

Show me what you got.

"For he that walketh in darkness..."

"For he that walketh in darkness
knoweth not whither he goeth.

We have the light."

- Who's that?
- Shut the door.

Excuse me.

- Really sorry!
- Shut the door!

lt's okay, sweetie.

You're just better on
your knees than on your hands.

Bowerman's going to kill me.


How did this happen?

l got up to go to the john...

...tripped on the couch
and hit that heater.

How many stitches?

Just six.

Where were you, Bob?

l was at the...

Bob went to take a walk.

l was at the...

Any word on how many
entries are in the 3-mile?

16. So what?

So there's no heats.

l don't have to run until
the final, 3 days away.

You're not serious.

Since when?


You can't even walk.

What kind of painkillers
they give you?

Gentlemen, clear out of here.

You too, Bob.

Kiss the Nationals goodbye.

There goes the team title
right down the toilet.

Shut the door!

Why don't you run the 3-mile, Russ?

We need my 10 points...

...to win the Nationals.

3 miles of pounding
on a hard asphalt track...

...can tear your foot in two.

lt won't.

You're in my care.

You don't know what it'll do
to my foot if l do run...

...but you know what it'll do to me...

...if l don't.

You've got to let me try, Bill.

Steve Prefontaine has clinched
the 1970 NCAA Championship...

... for Bowerman's Oregon Ducks.

l did what l said l'd do.

At least l made you work for it.

Jesus Christ!

You ran like that?

Steve, you are crazy.

You don't need to look.
Your time was a meet record.

Get a stretcher.

That's 17 straight races...

... that Steve Prefontaine has won.

We got tickets to Three Dog Night
next week. Want to come?

l'm going to Finland for a week.

l'll call you when l get back.

Still in the shoe business, l see.

l'm willing to give it up
whenever you say.

l told you, Steve, you're not my type.

Type? Type!
What is it with the girl?!

Heads up!

Fellas, watch it!
Don't make me come back for you.

Why not?

Why not?

l'll tell you why not.

You left my roommate
hung out to dry, for one.

You never told me
your date was with her.

lt wasn't a nice
thing to do and l'm sorry.

Apologize to her, not to me.

l will.
Then will you go out with me?

Are you looking for rejection?

How'd you get here so quick?

lmpressive, huh?
l took a shortcut.

l do workouts...

...through here.

l know everything there is
to know about this place.

You're sitting
on a Civil War monument.

Yeah, right!

Take a look.

You really do work out here.

Of course.

l wouldn't lie to you.

lt's okay.

Just looking.

That's pretty.

Thank you.

You want to walk, don't you?


Are you Catholic?

Lots of people are.

People say so,
but l bet you really are.

l'm not sure l understand
what you mean.

Am l being flattered or insulted?

No, it's the hardest thing
in the world...

...to believe in something.

lf you do, it's a miracle.

"Modern Behavior."

We can drop those by the dorm.

Someone's always trying to
talk you out of what you believe in.

Anybody. Everybody.

Your own mother.

Why is that, do you think?

All l know...

...is that if you do believe in
something, you make people nervous.

Do you believe in God?

l believe in myself.

l mean it.
You're not my type.

This ends the KBAL broadcast day.

This is KBAL, Eugene, Oregon.

What's wrong?

Can you say something?



Can you talk now?

Can l get you something?
Water? Coffee?


l can tell you l certainly
didn't mean to upset you like this.

- lt's okay.
- No, it's not.

Yes, it is.
lt wasn't you, it's me.

What do you mean?

You made me feel too much,
and l can't handle it.

Please, please, please...

Are you okay?

How do you mean?

Guys get sick from stopping
like that, don't they?

They do.

They can.

l don't think we should
see each other again.

l believe in waiting.

l'm not going to sleep with you,
and l'm not going to change.

We'll just keep doing this
to each other over and over.

l know it's stupid,
and it isn't fair...

...for either one of us.

- You should go out with other girls.
- l do that already.

So keep doing it.

l'd rather go out with you.

Anyway, we can do it.

No, l just don't think we should.

l'm going to Finland.

Will you see me when l get back?

When are you leaving?


...after the workout.

Think of it this way.
Maybe l'll change.

Are you always so positive
about everything?

Consider the alternative.

l do.

ln other words, you
plan on being disappointed.

l'm not going to disappoint you.

Come on.

l'll get you back to your dorm.

Dear Mary: Every blond
in Finland reminds me of you.

So I pretty much
think of you constantly.

Except when I'm
pissed off about this tour.

It's run by the AAU...

... the Amateur Athletic Union,
our national governing body.

Its head, Colin Ponder,
keeps us amateur...

... and uncomfortable,
while he hits on stewardesses...

... and goes first-class all the way.

Any American caught accepting
more than a redeye ticket...

... a bad hotel and $3 a day,
and Colin will sanction us.

He'll call us professionals...

... and kill our Olympic eligibility.

Amateurism is the most hypocriticaK/i>
crock of horseshit in American sports.

We're much worse about it
than other countries.

And nobody in America is
worse about it than Colin Ponder.

Our new legal eagle, Frank Shorter,
showed Kenny and me...

... a directive where Colin
ordered us to switch meets...

... when the reason for this trip was...

... to beat the Finns with
the best times.

We signed on to race
Viren and Vaatinen in Oulu...

...not a bunch of pussies
in Helsinki.

There's the asshole.

What asshole is that?

Colin Ponder, the one who
ordered us not to run this race.

- He say anything about us being here?
- Not a word.

You have no Finnish?

Speak Finnish?

"Shorter, Moore and Prefontaine...

...are required to run in Helsinki."

We're going to run here,
today, in Oulu...

...against Vaatinen and Viren.

No, no, Helsinki.



They're about to start our race,
so listen to me!

We came all the way from Eugene, Oregon
to run against those two guys.

Not a bunch of pussies in Helsinki!

Ponder what?

Sanctioned us and contaminated them.

Anyone who runs against us
loses international eligibility.

- Wonderful.
- You're not God!

He's crazy.

This is not even your country!

- You don't pay taxes here!
- What are you talking about?

You make me ashamed to be American!

You don't have the right to...

...run their races
and run our lives!

You're not God...

...you overbearing asshole!

Get off me!

Pre, calm down!

What the hell are you trying to do?


lt wasn't hot enough
for him in Finland.

World's latest press conference.

World here says he's
ashamed of being American.

You believe
everything you read there?

What did you say?

l said that the AAU
should've been shitcanned in 1920.

And we don't need them.
They need us.

They don't need us.
They got us.

The AAU's our governing body.

Organize against them,
and goodbye Olympics.

Shorter found out why
they shifted us to Helsinki.

Colin Ponder
extracted a little fee...

...from the Helsinki promoter
to guarantee our appearance.

How much?

Tell them.

Between me, Pre and K enny, $ 10,000.

And they give us $3 a day...

...for everything!

But better competition
means bigger gate receipts.

So we point out to foreign
meet promoters that the AAU...

...is not only shitty
for our competition...

...it's shitty for their box office.
And money talks!

Louder than the AAU guys,
and in any language.

Contentious little rube,
isn't he?

You fuck!

l can't believe you'd sit there...

...not say anything and
then be dismissive about this.

l've battled those freeloaders
all your life and then some.

And guess what?

You and the AAU have a lot in common.

Bullshit! ln what way?!

Resistance to change.

They don't want to stop
shitting on you any more than...

...you want to change
the way you run. Because it hurts.

- Doesn't it?
- l wouldn't know.

Doesn't it hurt to change?

What are Viren's chances against me?

Yes, my long-term goal
is still the '72 Olympics.

What's your name?

l like your shirt.

Go, Pre!

He's really finding out about
his strengths and weaknesses now.

And he's run the rest into oblivion.

You really believe
you can do anything?


Fly a plane?

Sure, if l wanted.

You read the manual,
get the best teacher...

...and take off!

Not everything can be learned.
Some things take talent.

Let me tell you something.

Talent is a myth.

A dozen guys on the team have
more talent in their little finger.

Then how come you can beat them?

A little secret l learned
a long time ago...

...in Coos Bay.

ln the woods.

So what's your little secret?

What? The one you learned
a long time ago.

l can endure more pain
than anyone you've ever met.

That's why...

...l can beat anyone l've ever met.

You don't believe me?

l do.

What happens if you don't win in Munich?

That's just not possible.

Where the hell did you come from?

That's a terrible way to greet someone,
especially Mr. Bowerman.

Not bad, rube.

- Steak on food stamps?
- Barbecued catfish.

Would you like to stay?

No, thanks, Mary.
l'd just like a word with your friend.

Go on.

Go on.

What's going on?

George Young is in town.


He holds the world record at 2 miles.

l think we're running
the 5000 at the trials.

You don't think
l can beat George Young?

He has a hell of a finishing kick.

You won't run away from him.

Not by running out in front, flat out.


We're back to front-running again?

Nothing would please
George Young more, or the crowd.

You'd give them the performance
they want and him the one he expects.

You can call a race what you want,
but l wouldn't call it a performance.

What would you call it?

A work of art.

lf you can't beat George Young...

...you can't win at Munich.

Beating George Young is going to
take some kind of time.

What kind of time?



That's 7 seconds faster than the
American record. My American record.

Your American record.

How do l do that?

You wear him out.

Descending series.

Negative splits.

Prefontaine's lap time: 65 seconds.

Gradually go a little faster
than he thinks he's going.

By the time he realizes
what's happening...

... he won't have enough left
to hurt you.

Prefontaine's time for that lap:
64 seconds.

Prefontaine's lap time:

63 seconds.

Steve Prefontaine and George Young
have broken away from the field.

That means that Prefontaine will make
his first Olympic team...

... and George Young
will make his 4th...

... as the top 3 finishers
will be going to Munich.

It's not enough for Prefontaine
to simply qualify.

He's been gradually
increasing the pace...

... trying to run away from Young.

Now, less than 2 laps to go...

... it is Prefontaine...

... a stride out in front of Young.

They've broken away from the pack.

Pre's lap time:

59 seconds.

Now he's building a
lead and the strategy is working.

Prefontaine has broken Young.

In front of this sell-out crowd
at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

They're on their feet,
cheering the hometown favorite.

And he is running away
from George Young.

Steve Prefontaine wins
the Olympic trials...

... and qualifies for
his first Olympic Games.

Way to go!

Steve Prefontaine sets
a new American record...

... of 13:22:8.

Steve Prefontaine's time of 13:22:8...

... is a new American record
by 8 seconds.

Down the hall and up the stairs!

What happened to security
on these elevators?

We removed them. Not necessary.


Yes. Finished.

Not necessary.

Call the embassy
and get Marine guards...

...on these elevators around
the clock, no matter what.

That might offend the Germans
and piss off the Olympic Committee.

Let them be offended.

lt's easier to beg forgiveness
than ask permission.

What's going on?

- We don't know.
- l can't even get the TV to work.


Arab gunmen have taken over
the lsraeli compound.

We're waiting for more information.
Our quarters are sealed off.

So clear off the balcony and
stay put until further notice.

Golda Meir just requested that
the games be suspended.

What's the point
in competing now, anyway?

Wait a minute.

He said the hostages will be...

...released in exchange for a plane
for the terrorists.

lt's over. That's it.

Thank God!

l'm hitting the sack.

Get some sleep.

l'm sorry.

l had to clean up the place.
lt was a mess.

l'll go to bed now.

The police tried an ambush
at the airport.

All the lsraelis have been killed.

l'm sorry.

This killing of Israeli athletes...

...is an act of war.

And if there's one place...

...that war doesn't belong...

...it's here.

For 1200 years.

From 776 B. C...

...to 393 A. D...

...your fellow Olympians
laid down their arms...

...to take part in these games.
They understood there was more honor...

...in out-running a man...

...than in killing him.

l hope...

...the competition will resume.

And if it does...

...you must not think that running...

...or throwing...

...or jumping...

...is frivolous.

The Games...

...were once your fellow Olympians'
answer to war.


...not conquest.


...they must be your answer.

David Bedford.

Ian Stewart.

Juha Vaatinen.

Mohammed Gammoudi.

Lasse Viren.

Emiel Puttemans.

Harold Norpoth.

Steve Prefontaine.

13 runners at this Olympic pre-finals.

The same plan as the trials?

Conserve the first 2 miles.

Go hard the last one.
Watch out for Gammoudi.

Why? What's Gammoudi do?


That's Alvaris Selgado.
Halle of Norway next.

Viren of Finland, the 10,000-meter
champion. A world-record holder.

When I talked to Stewart
and Prefontaine...

... I asked them how they thought
the race might unfold.

I'd like to work it out...

... so that in the end...

... it comes down to a pure guts race.

If it is,
I'm the only one who can win it.

121/2 laps of the track.

McCafferty comes from the outside.

Norpoth on the inside.
Ian Stewart, there for Great Britain.

Lasse Viren, one of the favorites,
just tucks himself into last place.

And Steve Prefontaine is running
in the middle of the pack.

But everyone's bunched together
because the pace is pedestrian.

This is slow.
They've jogged half a lap.

McCafferty leads for Great Britain.

But no one can afford...

... to allow this to go on
until the later stages of the race.

Everyone fears the finish
of the European champion...

... number 225, Vaatinen,
the blond Finn.

McCafferty and Norpoth together.

Stewart on the outside.

Eisenberg and Prefontaine together,
4th and 5th.

First lap...

...very, very slow.

Still, the race has barely started.

Tripping over themselves
in their anxiety to find a position.

No athletes study each other
like distance runners.

They'll try to be stoic,
all except Prefontaine.

It's as if he takes the pain
personally and is offended by it.

Vaatinen must be loving this.

The strain on these runners,
waiting and waiting...

... for somebody to break
must be appalling.

The cracking point wilK/i>
surely come soon.

Vaatinen, with a blistering finish...

... is like the Duke of Plessitora,
leading from behind.

Who's the Duke of Plessitora?

Jesus, Mac, who gives a shit?

And surely somewhere...

... someone must go.

Pre's ready to, but he's trapped.

The time at 3 kilometers is 8:20:2.

They're 150 yards slower
than Ron Clarke...

... when he set his world record.

The suspense must be appalling
among those...

... who haven't total confidence
in their sprinting ability.

Sviridov, the Russian, goes in front.

All that pushing as they
all try to cover.

And they start
a significant change of pace.

But it's given Pre his opening!

Prefontaine coming through.

So the American now committed.

Really burly for a
middle-distance runner.

Cocky American who believes in himself.

Here goes Pre.
Maybe this is the race.

Prefontaine has taken the lead.

Ian Stewart comes right behind him,
and then it is Bedford.

Prefontaine, another athlete
who can't leave it late.

A long-distance joiner, really,
who's got to go for home.

And this is surely being left...

... to the fastest miler.
Prefontaine believes it's him.

Now we'll see.

Prefontaine didn't exactly
keep his pre-race plans secret.

He's begun a mile-long drive...

... to break the best runners
in the world.

The American, almost a cult
in the U. S...

... sort of an athletic Beatle.

There are T-shirts around, "Go Pre."

Can anyone hold the lead that long?

I don't know. It's the
toughest way to win there is.

He's burning more energy
than anyone else.

The race for the gold medal starts here.

Prefontaine leads. The Europeans
say he hasn't been in a war yet.

But he's got belief in himself.

And he's inexperienced enough...

... not to know how good
the others are.

As they come up with 2 to go,
Viren states his intention now.

lt's fine.

Pre can draft on Viren
and recharge for one last move.

They have left this one
for the fastest finisher.

But Viren, the world-record holder
at 10,000 meters...

... already leads.

Viren, there's been a certainty
about his running in the past 6 weeks.

It's almost made winning
seem inevitable.

2 laps to go.
Viren takes the lead.

Coaches will tell you
you have one chance at the lead.

Prefontaine has to beat the odds.
He has to stay with Viren.

He's got the turn and the lead.
Prefontaine is in front...

... for the second time.

The chunky American driving for home.

Viren following.

Halle and Stewart...

... not covering Gammoudi. Gammoudi
goes 3rd and here comes Stewart.

The 3 medals are between these 5 men.
What price has he paid?

A tremendous price, Charlie.

But his strategy's obvious.

He wants to be the last man
on his feet at the end.

Pre has said before:
"There may be men who can beat me...

... but they're going to have
to bleed to do it. "

This time, the bell.

Lasse Viren now moves up
and challenges Prefontaine.

He's going by him.
One lap to go, instincts take over.

Viren's gone too soon.
Pre can hang and wait.

Around the bend
into the back straight.

A long straight they're facing
for the last time on the final lap.

There's little strategy in this lap.
It's just going to be more of...

... who can survive...

... this 4-lap-from-the-finish run
by Steve Prefontaine?

Gammoudi's going for the win.

Prefontaine goes by.
He has to get by before the turn.

And the American attacks on the
outside, but Gammoudi responds.

Viren there.
And these 3 now...

... 7-8 meters clear of Ian Stewart.

These are the medal men.

200 meters left.
The champion, Gammoudi, leads.

Viren moves up inside Prefontaine.

The Finn and the American gathering
for the final attack.

Can't do it!

Viren's challenging Prefontaine inside.
As they come off the turn...

... Gammoudi has the lead.
And here comes Viren!

They're all running at top end.
There are no more gears.

It's as fast as these men can go.

Top of the final turn.

100 meters to go.
Lasse Viren has taken the lead.

As they go for home, Gammoudi
is bankrupt! So is Prefontaine!

The Finn pulls in now
for his second gold medal.

And Stewart with a late run!

The Finn wins, Gammoudi second,
Stewart takes the bronze.

Prefontaine dies in the final stride.
Puttemans fifth, Norpoth sixth...

... Per of Norway seventh...

He ran his last mile in 4:04.

What more could he have done?

Prefontaine endured a slow early pace
and made all those moves.

With a mile to go...

... with 600, with 300.

And Viren took everything
he threw at him and still won.

Two outstanding efforts.

One man made the race
and another man won it.

Fred, it was really a great race.

When you see Steve,
congratulate him for me, will you?

He ran one of the
greatest races l've ever seen.

The Finn pulls in now
for his second gold medal.

And Stewart with a late run!

The Finn wins, Gammoudi second,
Stewart takes the bronze.

Prefontaine, dying in the
final strides, fourth...

Lobo, how about a quick...

This is Lobo.

You don't answer your phone anymore.

You want some food?
Come on, right here.

Care to come in?

l got to get ready for work.

Where are you working?

The Pad.

Why? What's wrong with that?


That didn't look like nothing.

l'm not here to fight, so...


Why are you here?

Your pictures and awards,
there's nothing here anymore.

Honey, you were great in Munich.

Viren was great. l was fourth.

You can beat Viren.

Really? Who told you that?

You did.

You shouldn't believe
everything you hear.

Come on.

l'll walk you out.

Sure, why not?

Everyone is standing around!
Nobody's drinking. Two Buds!

Two! Two!

Who else needs something?


- Bill, what brings you by?
- Same as everybody else.

l heard Steve Prefontaine
was working here.

l'm told he prefers it
to living on food stamps.

Did you have to put your picture up?


Cover for me!
You want to meet me out back?

What? l got to make a living!

Nobody in Oregon can
influence kids more than you can.

So get yourself another job.

One that pays the rent
and lets me compete...

...with athletes
who don't have to work?

l haven't noticed you
working out that much.

You know the greatest race
l ever saw you run?


l was never prouder
than of your effort that day.

You couldn't have
done more than you did.

You won the trials in 13:22.

5 seconds faster than Viren.

lt would've beaten him by 30 yards.

lt's hard to believe
you've never thought about it.

So if l'd gone out faster,
l might've...

And you blame me.

Do you blame yourself?

That's a constant, Pre.

At your level of competition,
anyone can win...

...on any given day,
and not necessarily the best man.

Losing a race isn't your problem.

Front-running isn't your problem!

What's my problem?


lnsisting you have no talent
is the ultimate vanity!

No talent, no limits.
lt's all an act of will, right?

l couldn't do it.
Leave it at that!

l got news for you!

All the will
in the world won't get...

...a person in a million to run
a 3:54 mile! That takes talent!

And talent in a runner is tied
to specific physical attributes!

Your heart probably pumps more blood
than anyone else's on the planet.

That's the fuel for your talent.

lt'd take a hammer to hurt your bones!

lt's the foundation of your talent.

Your talent is not some
disembodied act of will.

lt's literally in your bones.
lt has limits.

Be thankful for your limits.

They're as limitless
as they get in this life.

Good night.

Just a minute.

Bill, just a fucking minute.

Do you really believe
you know everything about me?

Did it ever occur to you
that l might know...

...something about myself
that you don't?

You vain...

...inflexible son of a bitch.

You don't know me
any better than yourself.

And you're never
going to change you, Bill.

Men of Oregon...

...l invite you to become...

...students of your events.


...one might say...

...is basically an absurd pastime...

...upon which to be exhausting
ourselves. Gentlemen...

...if l'm boring you...

l'm sorry, Bill.
l didn't mean to interrupt.

l was just wondering if...

Would you mind if
l worked out with the team?

You're always welcome here, Pre.


...if you can find meaning
in the kind of running...

...you have to do to stay
on this team...

...chances are
you can find meaning...

...in that other absurd pastime:


For the time being,
don't work out with the team.

You'll be facing Viren
again at the Montreal Olympics.

I don't want you racing anyone now.

I just want you running.

Explore the limits of the one
competitor above everyone else...

... you've always loved to face:

Steve Prefontaine.

Dear Mary...

... it's the first day of spring.

Munich seems more than 6 months ago.
You're on my mind a lot.


... I choke on things I want to say.

I nearly did talk to you yesterday,
but you looked busy.

The trouble is, since Munich,
I've hated myself too much...

... to feel I can say anything
to someone I love.

I'm running against
Shorter in the Restoration...

... the race at Hayward Field...

... to raise money to keep it
from falling apart.

It is, after all, my second home.


l'd like to ask you something.

lt's personal.

Sit down.

How do you and Barbara...

How do you and Barbara...?
l mean...

Do you pretty much
believe in the same things?

God, Pre, l have no idea.

The woman's a complete mystery to me.

How do you get along so well?

l don't have to know what
she believes in. l believe in her.

You're easily pleased, l must say.

l liked what you said about...

...using foreign promoters
to combat the AAU.

That's not a bad idea.

You all set for tomorrow?

Yeah, sure.

No sweat.

And representing Oregon International...

... Eugene's favorite Norwegian,
Arne Kvalheim.

Pac-Eight Champion,
former Stanford star...

... his 7 th visit to Hayward Field...

... Don Kardong.

l've been kidding myself, K enny.

What are you talking about?

l can't run with these guys anymore.

Shorter, Lindgren, Kardong.

They're going to hand me my head.

A graduate of Yale...

...gold medalist
in the Olympic marathon...

... American record-holder
at 10,000 meters:

Frank Shorter.

Ladies and gentlemen:


l think that's you.

Pre now moving to the front again.
The leaders battling the wind.

Kardong running third.

Shorter again takes the lead
as the runners continue...


lt's so windy,
Frank agreed to swap...

...the lead with Steve
every other lap.

Share the work...

...draft off each other.

Pre moves into the lead
ahead of Frank Shorter.

Shorter again takes the lead...

He's doing it.

Once again, Pre takes the lead.

Frank's going to
take the lead right here...

...then the last lap'll
be every man for himself.

Kardong, third.

Go on!


Frank should've taken the lead.
He's not doing it.

There's no way Steve can fight
the wind for another 2 laps.

In the 3-mile, Pre continues to lead.

Frank Shorter, second, Kardong, third.

With 300 yards to go, Shorter
makes a strong move to the lead.

Frank Shorter pulling away from the
field. It's Frank Shorter by 10 yards.


Munich all over again.

Prefontaine, the winner...

... followed by Shorter.


A new American record.

The third fastest 3-mile ever run.

Finishing third...

... Don Kardong has run under
13 minutes for the first time ever.

Under 13.

lsn't that a P.R.?


Hey, rube.

Want some lemonade?


They've offered me...

...$ 200,000 to turn pro.

What do you think should l do?

l'm not going to tell you
to turn it down.

l know what that money
could do for you...

...and your family.

No Montreal...


No Olympics, period.

Where the hell did these come from?

They're yours.

The rubber spikes.

The seam's gone.

Took that out for you.

They're made from your last...

...so try them on.

Stand up on it.

They fit all right.

How do they feel?

Excuse me a minute, Bill.

l'm sorry.
l ran up to the quarry.

l forgot about the time.

How'd you like them?

You know me.
l've always been an Adidas freak.


...they're not bad.

Not bad.

Can you make me a couple pair?

What the hell for?


l think l could probably manage a couple.

l'll never understand you, Pre.

Who the hell says you have to?

What are all these cutouts for?

That's kind of my trademark.

Stands for Nike,
the Goddess of Victory.


Yeah, Greek.

l like it.

Get me out of here early.

l'm dying.
My jaw is throbbing.


My wisdom teeth
were extracted 5 days...

You can't stay here!
You exploded out there today.

Thanks a million.
l appreciate that.

l need to talk to you.

l'm right here.

Well, wait for me.

So, Pre, l'm ready if you are.

l feel for you. l'm sorry.

l want a ride, not your sympathy.

Okay, one second.

l've been looking for you everywhere.
Can you wait a second?

- We got to go.
- l'll be right back, okay?

Please don't leave without me.

Jesus, Frank!

A little privacy, please.

l'm dying.

You got to take me home.

You can always come back, you know.

l will be right back.

l'm not going to let you go.

Let's go.

See you, Mary.

l've made a decision.

ln the next 3 weeks...

...l'll break the world record
in the 3-mile by 12 seconds.

No kidding?

You want to guess how?

l can't.

Sure you can.

No, l have no idea.

Give it the old college try.

Honest to God, l can't guess.

l'll tell you.

Twelve 63-second quarters.

That's 12:36.

12 seconds faster than 12:48.

How about that?

All right, thanks, Pre.

So what time tomorrow?

Remember, we're going
to run an easy 10?

We'll see.

10 o'clock?

l said, we'll see.

63 seconds per quarter
for 12 quarters...

...is 12:36.

12:36, Steve Prefontaine...

...world record!

63 seconds, boom!
First quarter.

2:06, boom! Second quarter.
3:09, boom! Third quarter.

8:24 for two miles.

Boom! Right there.

9:27 for nine.

10:30 for ten.

Always holding on.

11:33, one lap to go.

He's holding on.
He sees it in front of him.

11:33. He's got one lap to go!
He's got one lap to go!

He's on world-record pace.

200 meters to go, Steve Prefontaine...

One of America's best hopes
for the 1976 Olympics...

... runner Steve Prefontaine,
is dead.

America's leading
long-distance runner...

... was killed last night
in a car accident.

Just hours before his death,
the 1972 Olympic runner...

... took part in a meet
at the University of Oregon.

During his career, he set records
in almost every long-distance event.

According to police,
he was driving alone in a convertible.

He was 24.

Pre did everything on a track...

... just about...

...everything on a track
that a runner can do.

One thing Pre cherished most...

...that he never got was the
world record at 3 miles.

The last thing Pre said to me...

...was that the next time
he'd run three miles...

...he'd do it in
12 minutes and 36 seconds...

...beating the world record
by 12 seconds.

We're timing the eulogy.

We'll deliver it
in 12 minutes, 36 seconds...

...then we'll stop the clock...

...and as far as we're concerned,
Pre will have his record.

All of my life...

...man and boy...

...l've operated
under the assumption...

...that the main idea in running
was to win the damn race.

When l became a coach...

...l tried to teach people
how to do that.

l tried to teach Pre how to do that.

l tried like hell
to teach Pre to do that.

And Pre taught me...

...taught me l was wrong.

Pre, you see,
was troubled by knowing...

...a mediocre effort
can win a race.

And a magnificent effort
can lose one.

Winning a race wouldn't
necessarily demand...

...that he give it everything
he had from start to finish.

He never ran any other way.

l tried to get him to.

God knows, l tried.

But Pre was stubborn.

He insisted on holding himself...

...to a higher standard than victory.

A race...

...is a work of art.

That's what he said.

That's what he believed.

And he was out to make it one...

...every step of the way.

Of course, he wanted to win.

Those who saw him compete and
those who competed against him...

...were never in any doubt about
how much he wanted to win.

But how he won...

...mattered to him more.

Pre thought l was a hard case.

But he finally
got it through my head...

...that the real purpose of running...

...isn't to win a race.

lt's to test the limits...

...of the human heart.

And that he did.

Nobody did it more often.

Nobody did it better.

And we stopped the clock at
12 minutes and 36 seconds.

A world-record time...

... with which Steve Prefontaine...

... would have been well satisfied.