I love following elite cross-country and track and field. The unbelievable things that these athletes do are pretty inspiring. One of my favorite things to do before a competition is to watch a video of the perfect race. It gets me in the zone. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite elite runners.
Of course the legendary Steve Prefontaine has to be included in this list. He was a confident and slightly cocky runner from Oregon – a rare front-runner that knew the way he raced best and wouldn’t change himself for anyone. My favorite quote by him is, “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” That’s basically what running is. It’s mostly a mental battle with yourself to see how much you are willing to suffer for a win. You can settle and run a sub-par race, or you can push yourself to the edge and accomplish something amazing. Pre was kind of the epitome of “mentally strong.” He once ran a race with stitches in his foot… and WON!
If you haven’t seen the movie “Without Limits” and are kind of a running nerd like me, then I highly suggest it. The movie is about Pre’s running career – probably one of my favorite movies. It was always a team dinner favorite in high school.
I think this young athlete is a favorite of everyone’s after her past year.
Here is a handful of her accomplishments:
- Youngest American athlete to ever represent the US in a World Championships meet
- High school record in the indoor 2 mile, indoor 1500m, indoor 3000m, indoor mile, outdoor 800m, outdoor 1500m
- Placed 13th in the 1500m at the 2013 World Championships
- 2013 US indoor mile champion
- 2011 USA Junior 1500m runner-up and 2012 USA Junior 1500m champion
Her unbelievable performances have made the running world pretty excited. It seems that any race she runs, she excels at. She makes breaking records look easy. Mary has decided to not compete collegiately, but instead turn pro and run with the Oregon Project (while pursuing a college degree). I’m so excited to see what else she does. Here is one of her pretty exciting races. After a sluggish start to the race, the last few laps turn into a sprinting frenzy (Mary’s specialty). Enjoy!
Lukas is probably best known for breaking the 4-minute mile barrier as a high schooler – only the 5th person to do so. He also won Footlocker two years in a row and NXN his senior year. Lukas set national records for the high school outdoor 2-mile and indoor 5k.
What many people don’t know is that Lukas is a triathlete. He originally signed up to go to the University of Oregon. However, after after winning the Junior World Championship Triathlon in 2011 and not finding a good fit with the University, Lukas decided to turn pro as a triathlete.
He went on to win a few races, but soon after suffered a near-fatal injury when he crashed on his bike in 2012. He had a broken spine, collapsed lung, and broken clavicle. After surgery his left leg was paralyzed, but has since come back to not just walk, but race again. He is still recovering, but has since won the Oceanside Turkey Trot this past Novemeber.
Lukas’ strength and determination is probably what makes me admire him the most. Even when his doctors were saying that he would probably never walk again, Lukas never gave up. I also think his running form is the prettiest gait I’ve ever seen. He makes it look so effortless.
The long distance runner from Colorado University won a bronze medal in the 10k at the 2007 World Championships. She now specializes in the marathon and I’ve seen her running the Boston Marathon quite a few times now!
What makes her even more of an inspiration to me is that she had compartment syndrome when she was younger, just like me! When I was training again after my surgery I would keep reminding myself that Kara had the same injury and is now doing just fine. Actually, more than just fine. She has since made 2 Olympic teams.
It’s a tradition for my family to go watch the Boston Marathon every year. I get so excited when I see Kara representing the US. Here are a few photos we got of her from the race in 2011.
Joan Benoit Samuelson
1984 was the first year that women were allowed to compete in the marathon in the Olympics. That year the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Joanie was not even on anyone’s radar before the race as she had arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks before. Shortly after the start, she took the lead and gapped the field. They never caught her and she became the first woman to ever win the marathon in the Olympics. The fact that it was held in the US made the victory even sweeter.
Although she accomplished this before my time, I still love watching the video of her coming into the stadium for her victory lap. Joanie, full of joy, takes off her baseball cap and waves it around like a true champion. Here is a highlights video of the race
It’s been so much fun to watch her keep racing. In 2008, my family and I saw the women’s Olympic Trials in Boston. It was so much fun to watch the crowd cheer for her. They had almost more love for her than they did for the leaders!
Who are your favorite runners? Why?