My husband and I both run, but we do so for different reasons. He does it because he is fast, and I do it to keep fit. But although our motivation is different, we both admire gifted athletes.
Therefore, we eagerly looked forward to seeing two movies on legendary speedster Steve Prefontaine: "Without Limits" and "Prefontaine." We checked out both videos one weekend and overdosed on perhaps the greatest distance runner in American history (setter of 14 national records, from 2,000 to 10,000 meters).
I have vague recollections of Prefontaine, as I was only 12 when he competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics. My husband is older than I am and was running track in high school when Prefontaine was in his prime. He identified with Steve Prefontaine. I just didn't know how much.
Comparing the two films, we noted some discrepancies. Because we have inquiring minds and wanted to know the truth, we headed to our local library, where my husband checked out "Pre!" by Tom Jordan. My husband, not a bookworm in the least, quickly devoured the biography.
A few days later, our 12-year-old twins brought home a curriculum catalog for the next school year, when they would move up to junior high school. Both are very good students and wanted to choose honors courses. But classmates with siblings already attending the junior high and taking honors courses frightened them with homework horror stories of endless hours spent studying. Intimidated, they considered opting for the easier classes.
At dinner that night, I stressed to my children that they must work according to their abilities.
"Yes," said my husband, "to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
My husband is no Confucius. Astounded at his flash of profundity, I asked, "Where'd you pick that up?"
" 'Pre' said it." He was referring to the late runner as if he were a friend. "I read it in that book. That's how he ended his motivational talks."
What a great line, I thought. My husband might be able to lap me, but I was not about to let him zoom past me in running knowledge. So I did some research on Steve Prefontaine myself, turning to the Internet. From the numerous Web sites devoted to him, I discovered my husband wasn't the only one preoccupied with "Pre's" enigma.
Some days later, I lamented to my husband that I should do some PTA work I'd volunteered to do, but that as a writer, I whined, I'd rather spend the time at the keyboard.
My husband piped up, "Go write. You have a gift. And doing anything less than your best, would be a sacrifice of that gift."
Rolling my eyes, I headed off to the computer.
The next day, we dropped in at my parents'. Not seeing my father, I asked my mother where he was.
"In the basement," she replied. "He's doing some woodworking. I'll go get him."
"No," cried my husband. "Don't interrupt him. We don't want him to sacrifice his gift."
My mother turned and gave me a "What's up with him?" kind of look.
"It's the running, " I whispered.
Over the next few days, my husband took every opportunity to wedge "Pre's Proverb" into the conversation.
Two weeks later, we rented another film, "October Sky," the story of a group of teenage boys who overcome tremendous obstacles in pursuing their dreams of becoming rocket scientists. Highly impressed with the movie's message, I emphasized to my children that they should hold on to their dreams and let nothing deter them.
"Yes," chimed in my husband. "Remember, to give anything ..."
"We know!" my children and I cried in unison, finishing his sentence, "- less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
In an effort to expand my husband's repertoire, I'm thinking of buying him a book of quotations. But I'm hesitant. He seems particularly attached to "Pre's Proverb." Would he even open a quotation book if I bought him one?
And I'd absolutely hate that, because you know what they say about gifts and wasting them.
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