Dreaming with Prefontaine and Patagonia

Maybe it’s the new wheels on my bike or the glorious blue skies but there’s something about the last few weeks that’s made me dream. You know the kind of dreams — the ones which charge you with excitement and make you feel just a tad bit restless. The ones which bring forth energy you don’t really know what to do with but which makes you smile anyway.

Maybe I’m a romantic and adventurer at heart. Maybe I’m a bit loopy from the heat and my training. Either way, this unstructured dreaming has me in a rather grounded place. Sounds like a contradiction, right? In my experience, the feeling of contradiction usually indicates I’m in the right spot.

Feeding this energy of dreaming and centeredness has been a pair of movies I got to watch, thanks in part to travel and sickness of the BF along with his DVD collection.

Prefontaine is one of a pair of movies about legendary runner Steve Prefontaine and while it was made in 1997 and I’ve known about Pre for years, it was the first time I actually got around to watching the movie. To be honest, I was a bit concerned with Jared Leto playing the role of Pre, wondering if I would spend the movie wondering why Jordan Catalqno from the television show My So-Called Life was running around the track.

For those not in the know, Prefontaine (or “Pre”) helped inspire the American running boom of the 1970s and held seven American records in various distance events while running for the University of Oregon under coach Bill Bowerman (who went on to found a company called Nike).

Part of Prefontaine’s aura was his arrogance — or what on the surface smacked of arrogance. Perhaps you’ve seen one of his quotes on a t-shirt at your favorite local 5K: “A lot of people run a race to see who is the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.”

In the fictionalized version of his life, you get the sense that Prefontaine was driven to live big — even as he was living hand-to-mouth in a trailer in his post-collegiate days in order to preserve his amateur status and a shot at the 1976 Olympic Games. I’m not sure how much Prefontaine actually enjoyed the journey, particularly as he found himself thrust into the world of politics (both athletic and international). At times in the movie Pre seems like a tormented soul, but his passion for running, competing and for winning not only kept him going but had the opportunity to uplift others around him.

The movie ends with Prefontaine’s death — a car crash after leaving a party. He was 24. Granted, not the most uplifting way to end an evening (especially when you watch it the night before a race) but there is something inspirational about a person who is driven, who pushed limits and buttons and always questioned authority.

180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless is a documentary following adventurer Jeff Johnson as he attempts to recreate a climbing expedition to Patagonia. The film weaves in the story of the original adventure taken by Yvon Chouinard (founder of the clothing company Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins (founder of the clothing company The North Face) with a modern-day version of the trip undertaken by Johnson.

The film features interviews with Chouinard and Thompkins about their 1968 adventure, their philosophies on climbing and their passion for nature and environmental conservation. Johnson’s adventure takes its own twists and turns as he notes, “The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.” The film doesn’t explore much new ground but does offer an interesting tale of one man’s adventure — of taking the journey as it comes — and offers beautiful footage that call forth your own inner explorer.

There’s something complimentary in the notions of racing to see who has the most guts and getting answers to questions not yet articulated on a journey. Both have a way to push you out of your comfort zone by inspiring you to listen to that passionate voice inside — the one that is loudest when we are quiet.


~ by amymoritz on July 6, 2010.

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