Liquori, Martin William, Jr., ("Marty")

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LIQUORI, Martin William, Jr., ("Marty")

(b. 11 September 1949 in Cedar Grove, New Jersey), one of the best runners in the world at the high school, college, and post collegiate levels, who won the "Dream Mile" in 1971.

Liquori grew up in northern New Jersey with his father, Martin Liquori, who owned a service station, his mother, Sara Tosone Liquori, a homemaker, and three younger siblings. He entered Essex Catholic High School in Newark, New Jersey, in 1963. When he decided to try out for basketball, the coach suggested that he could build his strength by running cross-country, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Liquori's running was impressive, and coach Fred Dwyer, who had been an outstanding runner at Villanova University, devoted extra attention to his training. Their efforts culminated when, as a high school senior, Liquori ran a mile in 3:59.8, and became only the third high school student at that time to achieve a sub-four minute mile. At the Penn Relays that year (an undefeated year in which he broke four meet records for the mile), Liquori anchored the winning distance-medley relay team by running a 4:04 mile, which was the fastest any competitor at those Relays had run a mile, and was voted the outstanding high school performer. Villanova University's legendary coach "Jumbo" Elliott was at the Penn Relays with his team, and it was no surprise when Liquori accepted a track scholarship to that school. His high school classmates voted him the Foremost Essex Senior in 1967.

Arriving at Villanova University in the fall of 1967 as a finance major, Liquori set his sights on the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Not only did he make the team, he was the youngest person in the 1,500-meter finals. However, he suffered a hairline fracture in his left leg during the semifinals, and although Liquori decided to compete in the finals he finished twelfth. Ironically, this would be his only Olympics as a competitor.

Upon his return to Villanova in 1967, Liquori proceeded to blaze an outstanding collegiate career. During the indoor season in early 1969, he won the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games held in Madison Square Garden in New York City, beginning a streak of thirteen consecutive races in which he was unbeaten. After several other meets in which he won races at 1,000 meters, 1,500 meters, and 2 miles, as well as being a member of two winning 2-mile relay teams, Liquori won the Inter-Collegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) championship mile.

When the outdoor season came, after Liquori won the one-mile run in a dual meet, he went back to the Penn Relays and was part of three winning teams: the distance, two-mile, and four-mile relays. After another winning two-mile relay, Liquori won the 1,500 meters at the inaugural Martin Luther King Games, and then won the mile at the IC4A championships. He culminated the collegiate season by winning his first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) mile title in the time of 3:57.7, defeating the then world-record holder Jim Ryun. Liquori also defeated Ryun one week later, winning the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) mile in 3:59.5. He then won the 1,500-meter race in both the USA-USSR-British Commonwealth meet and the Americas versus Europe meet, running 3:37.2 in the latter—the fastest in the world that year. Accordingly, Liquori earned the number one ranking in the 1,500-meter and the mile for 1969.

In the indoor season of early 1970, Liquori again won the Wanamaker Mile, the AAU mile, and the IC4A mile. In the outdoor season, after a win in the three-mile relay in a dual meet and wins at the two-and four-mile relays, Liquori once again was part of three Penn Relay winning teams, anchoring the distance, two-mile, and four-mile relays. After winning the same three relays in the following week, he again won the 1,500-meter at the Martin Luther King Games, defeating Kip Keino, the Kenyan distance runner who won four gold Olympic medals, and was voted the outstanding male performer. After a four-mile relay win the next week, Liquori again won the IC4A mile in 3:58.5, and was on the winning mile relay team. He finished the collegiate season by winning another NCAA mile in 3:59.9.

In fall 1970 Liquori was named to President Richard M. Nixon's Council on Physical Fitness, and was part of Villanova's NCAA-winning cross-country team. In the indoor season of early 1971, Liquori won his third straight Wanamaker Mile, and after a 1,500-meters win at the U.S. Olympic meet, he won his third straight IC4A mile, and was the anchor of the winning two-mile relay team—in fact, Villanova won the team title all three years Liquori participated. Then, in impressive fashion, Liquori won both the one-and two-mile events at the NCAA races, resulting in the awarding to Villanova of the team title.

When the outdoor season came, after winning the one-mile run in a dual meet, Liquori again won three more races at the Penn Relays—the distance, two-mile, and four-mile relays—again anchoring all three teams. Then came his most famous moment: the "Dream Mile" against Jim Ryun at the Martin Luther King Games in 1971. In one of those sporting events moments that lived up to its "hype," Liquori won in 3:54.6, .2 of a second faster than Ryun. He then went on to win his third-straight IC4A mile (giving Villanova its second-straight team title), and his third straight NCAA mile in 3:57.6, breaking his two-year-old meet record. He then won the AAU mile in 3:56.5, ran the fastest 1,500 meters in the world that year (in 3:36), won the Pan American Games 1,500 meters, and was once more named the world's number one 1,500-meter and mile runner. The Philadelphia Sportswriters Association also named Liquori the Amateur Athlete of the Year for 1971.

Staying an extra year at Villanova University to complete his studies, Liquori married his high school sweetheart Carol Jones on 16 October 1971. That same month, however, he tore ligaments in his left heel, an injury that kept him from making the 1972 Olympic team. He did win both a one-mile and a three-mile race early that year, but when the Olympics began in Munich he was broadcasting the games for the American Broadcasting Companies (ABC) television. Liquori graduated from Villanova with a B.S. in finance in 1972, and attended the University of Florida's Graduate School of Journalism from 1973 to 1975 with the help of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Continuing to run, Liquori won the Philadelphia Track Classic indoor mile in 3:55.8 in 1975, and the mile event at Jamaica in 3:52.2—his best ever. He was aiming for the 5,000-meter event to make the 1976 Olympic team, but a torn hamstring again ended his Olympic bid. Nevertheless, Liquori won a 1,500 meters in Japan in 1977, then set the U.S. record for the 5,000 meters. He retired from running in 1980.

Liquori and his wife and son have lived in Gainesville, Florida, since 1973. He has had a career in broadcasting for both ABC and the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), covering the Olympics and hosting the show Running and Racing from 1986 to 1989. He has also written four books, On the Run: In Search of the Perfect Race (1977), with Skip Myslenski; Playboy's Elite Runner's Manual (1980), and Playboy's Book of Real Running (1980), with John L. Parker, Jr.; and Marty Liquori's Home Gym Workout (1987), with Gerald Secor Couzens. In addition, because of the interest in running and the fact that running shoes were not readily available to the public, Liquori and a partner rented a room above a women's shoe store in Gainesville to sell running shoes, calling it the Athletic Attic. It did so well that he expanded into hundreds of stores in the United States and overseas, finally selling the company in 1998. He is the president of Marty Liquori Sportswear, Inc., and vice-president of Athletic Lady.

Liquori is the national spokesperson for the "Team in Training" program of the Leukemia Society of America, which raises money for research by sponsoring people who want to compete in a marathon. Shortly after accepting the position in 1991, he was diagnosed with a mild case of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CCL). Among Liquori's many honors are the Vitalis Cup for Sports Excellence in 1983, the Penn Relays Hall of Fame, the New York City Athletic Club Hall of Fame, the Villanova Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987, the Italian American Hall of Fame in 1991, the National Track Hall of Fame in 1995, and the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in 1996. All these honors were well deserved by the physically and psychologically tough runner who believed not only in competing against another person, but in going the distance to triumph over himself.

Much material about Marty Liquori can be found in the Villanova University Sports Information Office and in the Alumni Office. Articles about Liquori and his career include "The Pressure Cooker," Sports Illustrated (7 July 1969); "Revenge Can Be Sour," Sports Illustrated (25 May 1970), and "A Dream Comes True," Sports Illustrated (24 May 1971). Other articles of interest are "Interview: Marty Liquori," Sports Philadelphia (spring 1976); "Life Doesn't Always Work That Way," Track and Field News (May 1978); and "Metre Minutes," Metro Sports (Dec. 1995).

Robert W. Langran