With Limits

Billy Crudup as Steve Prefontaine

This week my training has been seriously curtailed by a near fatal bout of Man Flu. I have been suspended in a state of torpor since last Sunday, stupefied by highly concentrated cough syrup and with sinuses so clogged I’m seriously considering vacuuming my nostrils. In short, the only thing that has been running of late is my nose.

While confined to the sofa I thought that the best thing would be to take my brain for a few laps at least. So I decided to watch the Steve Prefontaine biopic Without Limits. Surely this would teach me a thing or two about running.

Without Limits charts Prefontaine’s progression from a child who has to run to flee from bullies, to a youth who runs for recreation, to a man who runs for medals. Prefontaine is played by Billy Crudup who portrays him as an impish character who cares little for rules or the impracticalities of running with a moustache (the wind drag must have been a real nuisance). But the real star of the show is Donald Sutherland who puts in a noble turn as legendary coach Bill Bowerman (replete with an astounding toothpaste-white flattop). Only the coldest of hearts wouldn’t shed a tear (or at least feign an eye injury) in the final scene when Bowerman eulogises the recently deceased Prefontaine from the centre of a running track.

When I sat down to watch Without Limits I was hoping for an insight into how the great runners train. And I did get an insight, just into a far broader spectrum of issues that affect elite athletes. Here are 7 things I now know …

  1. Never have sex the night before a race – Prefontaine does, with disastrous results as he injures his foot while attempting to dismount.
  2. Don’t give Adidas shoes to everyone you have sex with – Prefontaine does this and while it doesn’t necessarily diminish his lung capacity or the length of his stride it certainly gives him a headache.
  3. It’s probably just safer not to have sex at all if you are an athlete – a number of the problems in Prefontaine’s turbulent and short life seem to have been caused by his love of women and willingness to distribute free Adidas merchandise to them.
  4. Don’t run with your arse sticking out – Bowerman notes that this slows you down. It also makes you look like a tit.
  5. Not running hard and from the front is “chicken shit”, “bullshit”, “horseshit” or any other kind of animal shit that you care to appropriate – Prefontaine firmly believed that this was the only suitable approach to running a race.
  6. You should run an even race with even splits – Bowerman counters Prefontaine’s assertions with his belief that you can run much faster if you measure your pace more equally.
  7. Moustaches are brilliant – this shouldn’t require justification or explanation.  

So, as soon as this cold clears I’ll take to the track with renewed vigour – a moustachioed, celibate, front-running machine. And I’ll be sure to keep my arse tucked safely underneath my pelvis too.