David Torrence, a world-class athlete, was running toward a set of goals he hoped to capture on and off the track before he died in late August.
In the wake of the professional middle-distance runner and Olympian’s death, many others, including his mom, Realtor Bianca Torrence, have grabbed the baton to carry on Torrence’s memory of athletic achievements and the good works he wanted to complete when not racing for victory.
Bianca said she wants to accomplish David’s off-the-track aspirations, such as organizing running clinics for youth in Peru, the South American country the Malibuite represented in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, and advocating for track and field to be free of performance-enhancing drugs.
“Whatever David wanted to do, I’m doing for him,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going. It’s so hard to lose my son, my friend, my coach, my inspiration. It’s been tough, but I’m really proud of all his accomplishments and the impact he had on the whole world.”
Torrence, a pro runner of nine years, competed in one-mile, as well as 800-, 1,000- 1,500-, 3,000- and 5,000-meter races across the globe. He represented his mother’s birth country in the Olympics and in more than a dozen races afterward. The former University of California at Berkeley runner set a few Peruvian running records in 2016 and 2017, and was looking to set more running high marks for Peru and South America before he was found dead by an apparent drowning in the pool of a Scottsdale, Ariz., apartment complex on Aug. 28. Torrence had been training in Arizona.
His death, under investigation by Scottsdale law enforcement, rattled the running world in the U.S. and abroad.
Cal track coach Tony Sandoval was heartbroken when he learned Torrence, a record-setting Cal runner in the mid-aughts, had died.
“I can’t think of anyone of my guys who best represented all that’s good about Cal cross-country and track and field,” Sandoval said in a statement.
David’s mother said the impact her son had on fans and other athletes all over the world surprised her.
“There are a lot of people that have a deep appreciation of David,” Bianca said. “They just can’t believe that he is gone because he was so friendly, outgoing and he had a lot of integrity. It was very admirable for me to know he turned out this way.”
The annual Hoka One One Long Island Mile was renamed the David Torrence Mile in September to honor Torrence, who won the race in 2016 and 2015. A Dec. 28 5K race in Peru was held as a commemoration to Torrence. He is wildly popular there after wearing the country’s red and white colors in the Olympics’ 5,000-meter finals.
The Peruvian Athletics Sport Federation will hold the David Torrence Grand Prix on Aug. 12 in Trujillo, Peru, and Bianca plans to donate some of David’s athletic paraphilia to Peru’s Olympic museum. She said Peru Runners, a running club, will hold a race on Sept. 2 to honor Torrence and raise funds for blooming athletes based in Peru’s Mantaro Valley, found in its portion of the Andes, a mountain range where many of the nation’s top runners come from.
Bianca, who recently traveled to Peru with David’s younger sister, Sylvie, said her son’s simple and humble nature won over Peruvians.
“He had a belief that they can compete with the best athletes in the world,” she said. “He gave them hope.”
David visited the Latin American nation before and after the Olympics. The Malibu Times’ 2016 Athlete of the Year said in an interview last summer that he planned to go to Peru this past fall to train for one of the biggest races in South America, which happened in November.
“I might try to run a camp or two while I’m there,” he said.
David was passionate about hosting clinics for novice runners, according to his mom. Bianca said that before David died, he asked if she would travel to Peru with him and help him teach youth interested in athletics about nutrition and dieting. She said David had trained in the high altitudes of the Andes and noticed the runners there didn’t eat properly.
“He said there is a lot of room for improvement,” Bianca said.
The younger Torrence also wanted to show the country’s runners how to train properly, Bianca said, adding that although she can’t teach the budding racers the proper techniques, she wants to make sure the events David wanted to host to help kids still happen.
Torrence was a staunch advocate for track and field being free of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), and played a role in an anti-doping investigation against a coach arrested for peddling PEDs. Bianca said last July, the International Association of Athletics Federation asked David to be the face for track and field’s anti-PEDs campaign in South America. She gave Peru’s sports federation and IPD Peruvian Sport Institute permission to base a cartoon superhero-like character on David to promote drug-free athletics.
Bianca said David had a lot of integrity.
“He was doing things the right way,” she said. “He was watching what he ate and drank. He didn’t think it was fair that people were using shortcuts. He was a voice for clean sports.”
Torrence set the mile record for Cal at 3 minutes 58.62 seconds in his last year of college. He claimed the American indoor record for the 1,000-meter, won three consecutive USATF Road Mile titles from 2009 to 2011 and won silver medals at the 2014 IAAF World Relay Championships and 2015 Pan American Games. The runner finished 15th in the 5,000-meter finals at the Olympics and held the Peruvian records in that run, the 800, the mile, the 1,500-meter, the indoor mile and indoor 1,500-meter.
In a Dec. 11 post, High Performance West blogger Jonathan Marcus reflected on Torrence’s second-to-last track win, and compared him to baseball legend Babe Ruth.
“David knew he had greatness in him and wasn’t afraid to step up to the plate swinging for the fences,” he wrote. “I hope this sentiment becomes an enduring part of his legacy. His bold efforts and bright spirit deserve it.”
The elder Torrence said she wants to have a hand in promoting David’s memory in the sport because he was passionate about it. Bianca said she wants to write a book or have a documentary made about her son.
“I want people to continue to be inspired,” she said. “To be an Olympian is a big thing. To be at the level he was is a big thing. He was loved by so many people, but he was very humble about it.”