Torrence’s Spirit Sprints on Through Memories and Actions of Many

Bianca Torrence (center), at an event in Peru

David Torrence sped by a lot of opponents during his amateur and professional careers as a middle-distance runner. 

Nearly a year after his death, memories of the Malibuite are not far from the minds of his family, friends and opponents.

Micah Tyhurst, Torrence’s friend since their freshman year at Loyola High School, said he thinks about Torrence every day. 

“It’s at random times,” said the Bay Area resident. “Times with my daughter, I think he is never going to have this opportunity with a kid. When I’m out for a run, I might think about occasional workouts he and I would do in high school together.” 

Tyhurst, a successful runner in high school with Torrence and an opponent during their college years, realized Torrence was a gifted athlete when he saw him run at track tryouts their ninth grade year.

“From when the gun went off, it was the most beautiful thing I had seen as a runner,” Tyhurst said. “I even made the comment as a 15-year-old to my coaches, ‘Oh my God, he is incredible.’” 

That dash began a running life that featured Tyhurst’s friend winning a CIF cross country title in high school and becoming a record-setting athlete at the University of California, Berkley. In almost a decade as a professional runner, Torrence snagged wins and top-tier finishes in one-mile, 800-, 1,000-, 1,500-, 3,000- and 5,000-meter races across the globe before he died last Aug. 28.

The 2017 The Malibu Times’ Athlete of the Year was found dead in a Scottsdale, Ariz. apartment complex’s swimming pool. Torrence was in Arizona training for an upcoming race.  

The 31-year-old passed a little over a year after representing his mother’s home country, Peru, in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Torrence had begun to set Peruvian running records in professional races. 

The record-holding pro dreamed of aiding runners in Peru and establishing healthy eating and exercise programs for Peruvian youth. Torrence also was an advocate for his sport to be clean of performance-enhancing drugs. 

His mom, local Realtor Bianca Torrence, is promoting David’s ideals and initiatives so he can still impact the world.

“This past year has been about keeping his legacy alive,” she said last month. “What inspires me is the people that keep asking and talking about him. People are doing things. People want to create things.” 

The elder Torrence recently embarked on a two-week trip to her native country. In Lima, the South American nation’s capital, Bianca received a special acknowledgement honoring her son from the Sports Federation of Peru, the Olympic Committee of Peru and the Sports Institute of Peru. 

“Very touched at the love shown for my dear son David Torrence who has left a legacy in the running community and keeps inspiring many with the legacy he left behind, his passion for running, advocating clean sports…” she wrote on Facebook on Aug. 14. “I am grateful and can only hope the vision he had for the athletes in Peru comes to a realization…” 

Bianca said plans are underway in Peru to create a program that helps Peruvian runners get running shoes and other athletic gear and promotes the healthy lifestyle David championed. 

Bianca said an antidoping campaign in Peru will feature a super hero-like cartoon character based on her son. 

David’s mother said that as of late July close to 50 people had signed up to run on a team named after David in November’s Malibu Half Marathon. She said Malibu Rotary Club would award a scholarship to a local high school athlete in David’s memory this school year. Last year, Tyhurst established a scholarship at Loyola. 

A race in Peru was held in Torrence’s honor this year and the Hoka One One Long Island Mile, an event Torrence won multiple times, was renamed the David Torrence Memorial Mile.

Professional runner Leah Rosenfeld isn’t surprised by the actions that have happened or are scheduled in Torrence’s honor.

“He should be remembered for the genuine person he was who cared deeply about his friends and family,” she said. “If he could share a part of his life, a part of his wisdom—if he knew the person or not—he would do it. He did everything with the best intention.”

Olympic runner Lea Wallace, another friend, called Torrence “a man of action and change.” 

“It’s been very powerful for me to see his continual impact in the world and in sport by the opportunities developing for people and athletes around the world in his honor,” she said. 

Rosenthal recalled how she made a day trip from Arizona to Southern California to watch high school cross country races at Mt. San Antonio College. Torrence was there supporting his high school team. A quick Cali trip turned into a weekend of her exploring the Los Angeles area, due to Torrence’s urging. 

He took her to the beach, running at Pepperdine and to Koreatown, where they ate barbeque and went to a spa.

“I was training for a half marathon and he drove—it was a 13-mile workout—alongside and gave me water the whole time,” Rosenfeld said. “It was a weekend where I was just going to Mt. SAC, and then he was like, ‘Let’s do this and go there.’ It just snowballed the best way possible. Whatever he did, he did to the fullest.” 

Wallace, who met Torrence at 2011’s Maui Mile race, will always remember his laugh.

“I can still hear it, and miss it tremendously,” she said. “He made us feel like we were all called to be stand-up comedians.”

Tony Viviani, one of Torrence’s roommates in college, recalled how inviting and friendly Torrence was to everyone he met. Now a lawyer in Washington D.C., Viviani said his friends in the nation’s capital easily became Torrence’s friends also. 

Viviani was on hand for many of his former roommate’s attempts to complete the mile run in under four minutes. Torrence set the UC Berkley mile record at three minutes and 58.62 seconds during his final collegiate season. 

One of Viviani’s favorite memories of Torrence occurred when he visited Southern California with Torrence while they were on a break from school.

“David was mid-season and needed to be training every day,” Viviani recollected. “When he heard I had never been to LA before, he insisted we go to Magic Mountain and have a fun-filled day of roller coasters and games. I protested, ‘Don’t you need to train today?’ His response, ‘Do you know how many hills there are walking around Magic Mountain? It will be a workout.’”

Bianca said people’s musings about David keep her motivated.

“They lost a great friend,” she said. “It’s important for me to keep David’s message alive.”

Rosenfeld commended Torrence as an athlete who performed exceptionally on the track and spoke out against ills in the sport.

“Once he had a platform, he felt a responsibility to speak the truth,” she said. “He always knew in his heart the right thing to do, and if he had the ability to do it he would, no matter how hard it was, in hopes it would help somebody.”

Wallace said Torrence wasn’t a quitter. 

“He was always striving to grow, learn and be the best version of himself,” she said.