Longtime readers will recall the day I came across David Torrence. If not, here’s what happened: I came across David Torrence.
He was a world-class runner and American-record holder for 1,000 meters. World record 4 X 800. Fourth in 1,500 meters at the U.S. championships. 2016 Olympics in the 5k. You get the idea. Fast. THAT fast.
I didn’t know who he was when I saw him at the track that afternoon. All I knew was that he was fast. Like insanely oh my god I can’t believe how fast this guy is fast. He was doing 400 repeats on an August day that made it way too fast to do 400 repeats. I knew he had to be a pro (all Hoka gear and a massage table in lane 9) and that I likely would never know who he was, given that I’m too shy to ask.
And then I read his obit the next day.
He was found dead the morning after I shared the track with him on the bottom of the swimming pool at an apartment complex a few blocks from where we live. They had no idea why at the time.
Last week, the Scottsdale Police Department officially ruled the death accidental. “There is no evidence that indicates a criminal nexus or foul play in this incident,” the PD wrote to LetsRun, my go-to source for running-related homicide investigations. That sounds pretty definitive, even if I thought a Nexus was a fancy car they drive in North Scottsdale (living in the slums on the southside, I’m not allowed north of Shea Boulevard).
Of course, LetsRun was immediately alight with conspiracy theories. Apparently there had been death threats on his FB page in 2016. His mom doesn’t think those were properly investigated. A letsrun guy pointed out he could’ve been strangled and then left to die. He was an excellent swimmer. Drowning in a pool? Yeah, right.
But back on planet Earth, the explanation seems simple enough: a slight heart disease that caused it to go wonky at the worst possible time. He was in the pool, his heart misfired, he sank to the bottom, and that was that. “Slight smooth muscle hypertrophy of the epicardial vessels with suggestion of amyocardial perivascular fibrosis,” the medical examiner said. It wasn’t obvious to me when I saw him that afternoon, but I don’t wear my glasses when I run.
31 years old. I see the phrase “he died too young” a lot, but come on. He still had a lot of miles in him.
I still think about him a lot when I’m on the track. There are people running there every day, some mortal like me, some gods like him. But there have only been a few who took my breath away as they came around the back turn. To be seven lanes away from greatness is a rare feeling.
Knowing that I’ll never see it again is a sad one.
Life is fleeting. Enjoy every 400 …
photo stolen from Sports Illustrated.
Because it’s a sport and I needed an illustration.