A week later he had another win in the AAU mile when Ryun quit; then in late July he ran an outstanding 3:37.2 in the 1,500 meters in Stuttgart, a race in which he reinjured his tender arches and ended his outdoor season. Still, at the age of 19, Liquori had run the fastest 1,500 meters of the year, the equivalent of a sub-3:55 mile, and established himself as the best miler in America, if not the world. The only other contender is Kipchoge Keino.
"That smile," Marty Liquori's mother would recall after the NCAAs. "It was only the second time I've ever seen him break into a smile like that. The other time was when he got his first bicycle." The bicycle, a three-speed English racer, was a Christmas gift in 1955, when Marty Liquori was 6. It lasted three years and has long since been replaced by a series of Thunderbirds. But the boy's taste very much foreshadowed the man's. In a sport, and a race, often given over to asceticism, he is something of an imp, choosing to live a life of existence rather than essence. "If someone ever stops to write about me," he said some time ago, "I want the people who read it to know I am not just another crew-cut runner who goes around a track all day."
He is strongly influenced by Herb Elliott's book, The Golden Mile, and often talks about its author. "You can see how he enjoyed life," says Liquori. "I want people to know that I can bust, too." So, like Elliott, Marty Liquori tells about free and uninhibited running coming from a free and uninhibited man. And he worries that through it all—his life with the monkey—the greatest problem will be saving his human qualities in the crusher of competition.
His instincts and pleasures are still, in the best ways, those of a child. He is early Beatle—simple, innocent, exuberant, at times mischievous, a zany guy moving through a series of zany scenes at double speed. A Hard Day's Night. Miami. Sitting around the pool of the Doral Country Club four days after first beating Jim Ryun, four days before he will have to run against him again. He sips beer from a paper cup. "I know everyone will be watching me now," he says. "And I have to be careful not to come on too strong. But I don't want to turn into a recluse, either." Then the blue eyes flash, he puts down the beer, pulls up his blue shorts and does a series of flips off the high board. "He's crazy," says teammate Dick Buerkle. "And scared of nothing."
Cut. He is hiding behind a tree just off Lancaster Pike on Philadelphia's Main Line. As an old lady stops her car for a light, he and two others jump out, tie a string of empty beer cans on her back bumper, then double up as she drives away.
A succession of quick cuts. The afternoon of a race, lunching on blintzes with strawberries and sour cream. The night after a race, in the corner of a pub, imitating W. C. Fields. The night of a banquet, appearing in a double-breasted fur overcoat. The first day of school at Villanova last September, walking into class with a full beard.
"Look," he says, "I'm a normal college kid. Just because I'm a runner doesn't mean I have to spend my life as an advertisement for clean living."
"A lot of other runners live in their own little world—live, sleep, eat and drink track," says Frank Murphy, an Irishman and ex-teammate of Liquori's at Villanova. "But Marty has other hobbies as well. A good European attitude. I mean, he knows how to go his own way, have a good time and a good laugh. He knows how to relax."
But the moments alone and chances to relax become increasingly rare. Sideburns and bell-bottoms make him a freak; torn blue jeans and a sweat shirt make him a slob; a beer makes him a drunkard; one late night makes him a debaucher. After his loss last month to Keino in the Philadelphia Track Classic they said he was over the hill, not training, drunk every night. Some even suggested he not be invited to any meets until he got back in shape. Yet six days later he won an easy 4:02.6 mile at the Millrose Games. "Winning that was like stepping right out of hell," he said.
Later he would come back to the monkey. "I must admit," he said, "that events are causing me to withdraw a little bit from everything. Why, there was a time, just a while ago, that anything I did was taken with a grain of salt. I mean, I could go to a party without any clothes on and it wouldn't get much further than the people there. But any little thing now is liable to get blown up way out of proportion.