Olympic and professional middle-distance runner David Torrence dreamed of aiding young runners in his mother’s native country of Peru.
Torrence, who represented Peru in the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics, wanted to hold training clinics, establish healthy eating and exercise programs, and do almost anything to benefit the South American country’s running community.
On April 27, a foundation created in Torrence’s memory in the wake of his passing at the age of 31 in 2017 took running strides to do that.
The David Torrence Legacy Foundation donated running shoes and running gear such as shorts and T-shirts to 93 athletes ages 10 to 18 at an event at Estadio Huancayo, a multi-use stadium in Huancayo, Peru, said David’s mother, Malibu Realtor Bianca Torrence.
“They were so excited,” said Torrence, DTLF’s president, of the young runners. “Just the joy of them receiving a pair of shoes, the smiles on their faces was priceless. This is what David wanted to do.”
The youths who received the running paraphernalia all hailed from the uplands of the Andes Mountains, an area that produces a lot of talented runners because of the high altitude. However, the young athletes from the area don’t have access to many items needed for their sport, said Torrence.
“A lot of times they don’t have shoes,” she said. “Running shoes and running gear are really needed.”
DTLF held the giveaway with two other organizations, Peru Runners and a nonprofit called Chakiwayra, which means “Feet that Fly” in Quechuan, an indigenous language spoken by Quechua peoples in Peru. In addition to the giveaway, there was also an event held to identify talented athletes.
David Torrence, the 2016 The Malibu Times’ Athlete of the Year, was found dead in a Scottsdale, Arizona, apartment complex’s swimming pool on Aug. 28, 2017. Torrence was in Arizona training for a race.
He died a little over a year after competing in the Olympics. Torrence had been a successful professional runner for years, and had begun to set Peruvian running records in professional races after his appearance in the Olympics. Torrence was the first Peruvian to ever qualify for an Olympic final in track and the first Peruvian to run the mile in less than four minutes.
His mother said most of the young Peruvian runners know about David because of his track exploits and how he wanted to raise Peru’s status in the running world.
“David is a source of inspiration for all of them because he made a statement, empowering them,” Bianca said. “He let them know that they have the talent. If they believe in themselves they can be the best. He said Peruvians can be some of the best athletes in the world. That echoed in their spirit. They asked questions about David.”
DTLF is also awarding a $500 scholarship to Malibu senior Hunter Shanahan, a soccer player. Last year, the scholarship was given to Emma Sudwaun, and the year before, to Aiden Gunnasekera. The scholarship is given each year to a student that excels in sports and in the classroom and exemplify David’s character, spirit, discipline, and integrity in sports.
Bianca said the foundation is also seeking to establish a scholarship at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. David led the school’s track team to a CIF title when he was in high school.
David’s mother said DTLF’s work wouldn’t be possible without donations and support she received from people in Malibu and David’s social circle. She said Pepperdine law professor Jeff Baker helped DTLF achieve nonprofit status in 2020.
Torrence hopes to donate running equipment to Peruvian runners annually.
“David’s willingness to help the kids that needed help just manifested that day,” she said. “I’m still guided by the spirit of David. I’m very proud of all the accomplishments he had while he was here with us. He was just a special person that touched so many people’s lives.
“Doing this foundation gives more purpose to my life. I am doing something he wanted done. I am just picking up the pieces. I fill so fulfilled. It just makes me happy.”