With the very sad news that professional runner David Torrence was found dead in a swimming pool yesterday (8/28/17)) in Scottsdale, Arizona, there has been an outpouring of remembrances of a man who did much more than run fast. As the news continues to settle in, I found the following guest-post from David from four years ago. It reflects his passion for the sport, hope for its future, and illustrates why the running community has expressed such heartache at his early passing. R.I.P. David. Your spirit and smile will be long remembered.
Reaction to the Competitor Group’s decision to discontinue much of their elite athlete program at their Rock `n` Roll Series events in the United States continues to come in. Even now, nearly four weeks after the decision became public, pro athlete David Torrence has reacted to a quote in the comments’ section of my post “Dumbing Down, Slowing Down” by Competitor Group maven, John “The Penquin” Bingham. In the following column posted on LetsRun.com today, Torrence fires back at Bingham’s assertion that pro runners don’t show sufficient interest in the back-of-the-pack masses, thereby maintaining the distance between them. A 1998 grad of U.C. Berkeley, David has won four National Championships, one indoors at 3000 meters, and three straight Road Mile Championships (2009-2011).
My name is David Torrence. I am a Professional Track Athlete and Road Racer. I’ve run in front of packed sold-out stadiums, and in front…
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2 thoughts on “PRO RUNNER DAVID TORRENCE – “Don’t Blame Elite Athletes for State of the Sport””
In David’s name the fight will go on.
In memory of David and everything good about the sport he represented, I would like to return to his comments from four years ago. The “Fan Zone” idea he suggested and referenced me on is still virtually non-existent. For example, over the ten days’ of our sport’s World Championships in London this month, some 700,000 tickets were bought by the fans. Just outside the Olympic Stadium on the walk over from the various Stratford stations, the LOC created an interesting “Hero Village” featuring a variety of pavilions by the championships’ main sponsors, such as Toyota, ASICS, Seiko, and so on. Several booths were also set up for fans to try their hand at various aspects of track and field, such as testing their reaction time out of starting blocks.
Unfortunately, as often happens at these championships, nobody at the LOC or IAAF thought it a good idea to arrange to have daily appearances at the Hero Village by the participating athletes themselves. I’ve long maintained that it does not only have to be medal-winning athletes who participate in these promotional events, but that fans would be very happy to meet a wide cross-section of Brazilian pole vaulters, Greek sprinters, American middle distance runners, Kenyan marathoners, or Finnish throwers.
I heard that about 2,000 athletes participated in this year’s championships. Would it have taken much extra work to arrange for a dozen athletes from around the world to appear at the Hero Village each evening from 5:00-6:00 pm as fans were making their way toward and into the stadium? How many such opportunities were provided to fans to meet athletes, get autographs, talk about sport? 700,000 people thought it worthwhile to lay out between 30 and 155 British pounds to attend a session of competition, yet I’d guess probably no more than a few hundred had much direct interaction with the competitors.
Another simple idea was to arrange some sort of fun run in the week after the marathons were completed, inviting the six medalists (or at least those of them still in town) to come run 5K with any and all comers at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Hyde Park, or whatever venue could be arranged with permission from the City of London. Women’s marathon medalists Edna Kiplagat and Amy Cragg were both willing to do such an event.
I floated both ideas to the IAAF, but it became too far along in the championships’ week to properly take care of planning.
In their glory days, the Competitor Group Rock n Roll series also presented a perfect lay-out to encourage such interactions, and it could have been as simple as arranging for the race champions to stay around the finish line after their race or cool-down run to cheer in the four-hour marathoners or pose for pictures with race participants showing off their finisher medals. In the 50 for more RnR events I attended over the years, I can never remember once any such opportunity being set up for the elites or mass runners.
So, to give equal value and appreciation to both David T and John Bingham’s comments, what is often lacking is not any reluctance from the athletes to join in events mingling with the “masses,” but a simple lack of creative thinking from the governing bodies and, frequently, race directors to plan ahead for better ways to bring top athletes, fans, and the mass runners together.