Remembering David Torrence: Olympian, US champion, US and Peruvian national record holder and legendary downhill miler

August 28, 2017 

The American and Peruvian running communities lost one of their own too early as Olympian David Torrence was found dead in a pool in Scottsdale, Arizona, this morning at the age of 31. Police found no obvious signs of foul play.

On the track, David, a standout at Cal-Berkeley, was known for his versatility and his fearlessness. He had PRs of 1:45.14 (800), 3:33.23 (1500), 3:52.01 (mile), 13:16.53 (5000). Career highlights for Torrence including winning a USATF indoor 3000m title indoors in 2009, breaking the the American record indoors at 1000m in 2014 (2:16.76, a record he still holds), running a leg on the world record 4×800 team that same year and finishing 15th in the Olympic 5,000-meter final last year in Rio.

David Torrence, Fearless Road Miler

Torrence celebrating the 2009 US indoor 3000 title Torrence celebrating the 2009 US indoor 3000 title

Some of Torrence’s greatest success came on the roads. He won three straight USATF Road Mile titles in 2009, 2010, and 2011. And while David made his name as a professional, he became a legend as a 20-year-old in 2005. In October of that year, “after a night of trash talking and pasta,” David made a bet with a teammate: he would run a sub-4:00 mile by the end of the year; if he was successful, his teammate would have to run a naked mile.

However, the bet never specified that the mile had to come on a track. So Torrence came up with the idea of running a downhill mile to win the bet. And he documented the entire thing on, signing off his initial post with the following statement:

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“P.S. I don’t want to hear about how, ‘Ohhh this is so bad for you…blah blah blah.’ I’m gonna do it. And plus, I regularly recover from stupid stuff pretty well anyways. Thanks again.”

And so it came to pass that David Torrence, with his friends blasting “Eye of the Tiger” as he ran, clocked a 3:46.3 mile down Bancroft Way in Berkeley, California. At 2:00 in the morning.

Torrence showed that fearless downhill mile spirit in some of his track races. He turned heads at the 2014 World Relays, where on the second leg for the United States 4×1500 team, he went out with Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat in 1:49.6 for the first 800. Torrence was still on 3:31 pace with 200 m to go when the wheels completely fell off, but Torrence’s 3:36 split was the fastest of the day for the US.

Torrence Runs in Olympics for Peru, Speaks Out Against Doping

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Torrence (second from left) after breaking the indoor 4x800 world record in 2014 Torrence (second from left) after breaking the indoor 4×800 world record in 2014

Torrence, while really good at a lot events, struggled to make a US national team and last year switched his allegiance to his mother’s Peru, saying he wanted to inspire a generation of athletes. “I kind of realized that whether or not I make the U.S. team, the American public as a whole is going to have heroes to look up to….Whereas in Peru, they only have a handful of athletes,” explained Torrence last year.

Torrence quickly started rewriting Peru’s record books as he’s the national record holder in the 800 (1:47.01), 1500 (3:34.95), mile (3:54.99), and 5000 (13:23.20). He competed for Peru in both in the Olympics in Rio where he made the 5000 final and again earlier this month at the World Championships in London where he ran in the first round of the 1500.

Off the track, Torrence was a nomad of sorts, training in multiple training groups, and most recently had joined the Altis group in the Phoenix area. One of those groups was Jama Aden’s group, which Torrence said he left as he didn’t feel comfortable with how Aden repeatedly pressured him to take vitamin injections. When the anti-doping authorities started an investigation into Aden’s group, Torrence told them he was offered vitamin injections that he turned down. Torrence received praise in the running community for talking to authorities about Aden.

Torrence (right) with Kyle Merber in 2016 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly) Torrence (right) with Kyle Merber in 2016 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Torrence’s willingness to speak his mind put him at the center of controversy last summer, when he called out Bernard Lagat for his “A” sample testing positive for EPO in 2003 (Lagat was cleared when his B sample came back negative) after Lagat won the U.S. Olympic Trials 5,000 at age 41.

“You know what? I’m gonna say it. This is bullshit, man!” Torrence said. “Lagat, positive A sample, you know what I mean? I swear to God, this is BS.”

Though Torrence received a lot of criticism for the comments, he stood by them and said that he received thanks from a lot of athletes for speaking out.

Pros React to Torrence’s Passing

The professional running community has begun to weigh in on Torrence’s death and clearly he will be missed. Win or lose, Torrence was a pleasure to interview and was always happy, friendly and positive in his interactions with

Two-time Olympic 1500 medallist Nick Willis wrote, “No one was more dedicated to their running than @David_Torrence.  He got 100% out of himself every day.  So so sad to hear of his passing.”

Kyle Merber said the Hoka One One Long Island Mile would be renamed after Torrence.

Gabriele Grunewald, who has inspired many with her own cancer battle said, ”One of the best humans I’ve ever met, I will miss him deeply.”

Stephanie Bruce and her husband Ben were with David a month ago and will miss his laugh and smile.

We will have more remembrances from pros, but you can share your remembrances of David in this messageboard thread: MB: David Torrence is Dead: RIP / Appreciation Thread

Update: We have a separate article on the pros’ remembering Torrence: LRC ‘A Beautiful, Genuine Soul’: The Running World Shares it Tributes to David Torrence.

More: The legendary thread from 2005 started by David Torrence aka Big Wave: MB: SUB-4 MINUTE MILE ATTEMPT….DOWNHILL!!!
2005 David Torrence Downhill Mile Race Video
2006 David Torrence Downhill Mile Race Video
2007 David Torrence Downhill Mile Race Video

David Torrence Splash Page

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