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TBT: Villanova and the History of Running Shoes

By Ethan Shea

"World Record Two Mile Relay Team"

Villanova’s World Record Two Mile Relay Team
Left to Right: Chris Mason, Marty Liquori, Andy O’Reilly, Frank Murphy

It goes without saying that athletic footwear has developed in leaps and bounds over the past several decades, but did you know Villanova is connected to one of the most innovative running shoes ever built?

"Brooks Villanova"

1974 Villanova by Brooks

In fact, the name of this groundbreaking shoe is the Villanova, and it was made in 1974 by the running shoe company Brooks. The Villanova was the first shoe to use EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) in its midsole as an alternative to heavier and less responsive rubber. Since the Villanova was released, EVA has become commonplace in the production of running shoes.

This game-changing shoe earned its name through a connection to Olympic middle-distance runner and Villanova alumnus Marty Liquori. The Villanova’s design was guided by the input of Liquori, who has a long list of athletic accolades, including American record holder in both the two mile and five kilometer distances.

At the age of 19, Liquori was also the youngest person to compete in the 1500 meter Olympic finals. Liquori’s Olympic debut took place during the summer of 1968 in Mexico City.

In 1979, Liquori published his autobiography, On the Run: In Search of the Perfect Race, which is held in Falvey’s Special Collections. The above photo of Liquori can be found in the 1969 edition of Belle Air, which can be accessed through Distinctive Collection’s Digital Library. The recently updated Digital Library can also be used to read previous issues of The Villanovan, faculty and student publications or even University commencement material dating back to 1850.

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant Falvey Library.



Winter Olympics: It’s Time to Include Cross Country Running

By Ethan Shea

It feels like we just finished watching the Summer Olympics … because we basically did. As we all know, the 2020 Summer Olympics were severely delayed by the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, so these 2020 Summer and 2022 Winter Olympics are occurring remarkably close to each other. During normal years, there would be a two-year gap between the events, as they both take place every four years, with two-year offsets between them.

In general, the Summer Olympics seem to be more popular. There are 339 different events a the Summer Olympics and only 109 at the Winter Games, so there are more awards and excitement to go around in the summer. Not to mention that many winter events require a specific climate and hefty funding to garner the equipment needed to take part. It follows that the Summer Olympics generally get better television ratings than its colder counterpart, as more people are apt to become emotionally attached to athletes competing in events they are familiar with.

This does not mean we should not look forward to the Winter Olympics! There are countless entertaining events, such as ice hockey, snowboarding, and curling, among 106 others, but the disparity in ratings does present an opportunity for change.

"Former Villanovan Patrick Tiernan Competing in 2020 Olympics"

Former Villanovan Patrick Tiernan Competing in the 2020 Olympics

In the 2020 Games, Villanova continued its streak of Olympic representation as four former and current Villanovans (Siofra Cleirigh Buttner, Summer Rappaport, Patrick Tiernan, and Jay Wright) competed on sport’s biggest stage. Aside from Jay Wright, who was the assistant coach of Team USA’s men’s basketball team, three of these athletes competed in events involving long-distance running. Villanova continues to produce world-class track and cross country athletes, so would it not be wonderful to watch these runners compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics? I, for one, believe this should be the case, and the best way to make this dream a reality is to add cross country running (XC) to the Winter Olympics! I am not alone in this belief, as several professional runners have voiced support for XC’s Olympic inclusion. There are many reasons why this would be beneficial not only for athletes but for fans, television producers, and Wildcats alike.

The most obvious reason why XC should be in the Winter Olympics is because it is traditionally a winter sport. Most international XC events occur between December and March, and since the Winter Olympics take place in February, this addition would fit perfectly into athletes’ race schedules. Track athletes would have enough time after the games to train for the outdoor season and marathoners would still be able to prepare for the big fall marathons. Training would be cutting it close for the Boston Marathon, which takes place in April, but I am sure athletes could make exceptions for the Olympics.

We can also deduce from the popularity of running events in the Summer Olympics that adding XC to the Winter Games would draw more viewers than ever to the global spectacle. Not only would runners around the world become invested in the games, but countless nations that are underrepresented in the Winter Olympics due to their warm climates would be drawn to the event for the first time in history.

From a competitive perspective, adding XC to the Olympics would create an opportunity for athletes of diverse running disciplines to race against each other for the first time. During the Summer games, marathoners do not compete against milers or steeplechase competitors, but if XC becomes and Olympic sport, fans would be able to see all different sorts of runners compete on a unique and rugged course over an 8-10 kilometer distance.

Unfortunately the International Olympic Committee (IOC) currently defines winter sports as “only those sports which are practiced on snow or ice,” but the recent addition of sports such as surfing and skateboarding to the Summer Olympics and women’s monobob (single person bobsled) to the Winter Olympics shows that the IOC is open to making changes. If any representatives of the IOC happen to be reading this blog, I hope they will consider the benefits of adding XC to the Winter Games.

On a more personal note, I would love to watch this event, and I hope I am able to do so at some point in my lifetime. For now, I’m looking forward to watching a lot of hockey, figure skating, and ski jumping next month!

If you would like to learn more about the Olympics and Villanova’s history with the world’s greatest sporting event, check out these blogs curated here at Falvey Memorial Library!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Cat in the Stax: Running to the Library

By Ethan Shea

Running is a hobby I’ve had for a while now, but during the past couple years, I’ve become very passionate about the sport. Aside from the obvious physical benefits of exercise, running has been essential to maintaining my mental health. There’s truly no better feeling than finishing a long run on a crisp October morning.

The most difficult part of being a runner, at least for me, is motivation and consistency. Its easy to fall into a rut where you begin running less frequently, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. New trails, schedules, and opportunities have made the last month exciting, but coping with the loss of my treasured running routes back home hasn’t been easy.

Here at Falvey, we know the best motivation is found in a good book, so I recently ran to the library for help with getting my running back on track. If any one else is planning to hit the track or trails, here are a few books I’d recommend.

"Once a Runner"

Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.

Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.

This is one of those classic running books your dad would probably recommend to you. Published in 1978, this novel thrived off the energy of the first running boom in the 1970s. It channels the gritty mindset of a runner who wants to be the best and is willing to do anything, even 60 consecutive quarter mile repeats, to achieve his goal.

The athlete in question is a fictional collegiate runner named Quenton Cassidy. Cassidy is a top-of-the-line athlete and four-minute miler, but he has lots of work to do before competing against John Walton, who holds the world record in the mile with a blazing time of three minutes and 50 seconds.

Admittedly, Once a Runner isn’t the most eloquent book I’ve ever read, and it will probably be most appealing to those who are already into running, but that’s what makes so called “cult classics” special. There’s just something about this story that stuck with generations of runners. The copy of this text I own was actually gifted to me by a former semi-pro runner I used to work at a running store with, so maybe I’ll continue the tradition and hand it off to another eager runner a couple decades from now.

"Advanced Marathoning"

Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger

Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger

Pete Pfitzinger is a former Olympic marathoner with a personal best time of 2:11:43 over the 26.2 mile distance (that’s about five minutes and two seconds per mile). Needless to say, Pete is fast, and that’s why I trust his training advice in Advanced Marathoning.

This book isn’t the most exciting read if you’re not a running geek, but it provides a lot of valuable information that any runner can benefit from. It really digs into the science of marathoning and the physiological changes that your body undergoes during training. The training plans provided are fairly advanced, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t apply their principles to their own routines.

If the marathon isn’t your favorite event, Pfitzinger also has a book titled Faster Road Racing that provides similar sorts of information as Advanced Marathoning but focuses on distances from 5k to the half marathon. I’d say if you want to nerd out over some running science, Pfitzinger’s books were written for you.

"Born to Run"

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

This is without a doubt one of the most influential books about running out there. The true story follows members of the Tarahumara Native Mexican tribe as McDougall himself learns how the community is able to run distances of over 100 miles without injuring themselves.

One of the more controversial takes found in this book is McDougall’s belief that modern cushioned running shoes cause injuries. He points to the minimalist shoes worn by Tarahumara runners as evidence of the inferiority of traditional running shoes. The popularity of this book even led to a minimalist running craze. You may remember those Vibram foot-shaped shoes that people were running with a few years ago. Those are (unfortunately) an indirect result of Born to Run. Interestingly enough, minimalist running is not the main focus of this book. The text only spends a couple chapters talking about the benefits of minimalism, and the rest explores other aspects of training with the Tarahumarans.

I could go on about why I passionately disagree with McDougall’s opinions on running shoes, but I’ll let you read and make a decision on your own. Shoes aside, this story captivated millions, and it’s certainly worth reading if you’d like to dive into the running shoe debate for yourself.

Headshot of Ethan Shea

Ethan Shea is a first year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Last Modified: October 6, 2021

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