Fearing the possibility of having to eat his own words, David Torrence knew he had to be creative in order to win a bet with his Cal-Berkley teammate. At the beginning of his junior season when the stakes were set, Torrence agreed he would break the four-minute mile, or run a mile sans-uniform. As the end of the 2005, season loomed, Torrence was faced with the reality that his time and hope of breaking four on the track was running out. Therein he found his loophole: the bet did not specify the track. Torrence seized the opportunity to create a course stacked in his favor: starting at the top of a hill on campus and running a straight course downhill for a mile, Torrence ran in the middle of the night by the light of headlamps and the relative safety of a bicycle escort. Coming in at 3:46, Torrence not only won the bet, but also found his niche as a road miler.
|© Twin Cities in Motion / Competitive Image 2010
“After that moment, I fell in love with the road mile, they are fun and different,” Torrence said. “On the track, you always know where you are in the race, but when it is just point-to-point, you just go. It makes it more of a pure competition because you aren’t worried about the splits, you are just out there in the race.”
Three years later, Torrence was a post-collegiate runner with big dreams and dwindling funds. When he heard that a bonus of $10,000 was being offered for a sub-4 performance at the inaugural USA 1 Mile Road Championships, it was more than enough to entice Torrence to travel to Minneapolis with the hope of funding his dreams for a few more months.
In the 2009 race, Torrence found himself in second place with only 300m to go, and noticed that the leader Jon Rankin wasn’t running the most efficient route. Torrence then made a move that is still talked about among distance geeks, as he ran the tangent of a slight curve and sped past Rankin to take the lead, the win and the bonus check.
“A lot of things would have been different if I hadn’t won,” Torrence said. “I would have had to get another part-time job in order to pay the rent, so I don’t think I would have run as well as I did. Winning was a huge boost for my career, and it allowed me to train full-time.”
Since his first road mile title in 2009, Torrence has returned to Minneapolis each spring to defend his title. In 2010, Torrence had his confidence checked when he found out that Olympian and national champion, Lopez Lomong was in the field. However, he did not let that deter him from running in the lead pack and unleashing his kick at just the right time to notch his second win.
This year, all eyes were on Torrence as the man to beat, but he entered with more confidence and familiarity with the point-to-point course through downtown Minneapolis than ever before. Once again, Torrence delivered a sub-4 performance to extend his winning streak and take home another bonus check. (read Torrence’s first-person account of the three-peat on his blog
Torrence’s enthusiasm and love for the road mile is evident. Although he admits that his coach, John Cook, isn’t the biggest fan of the road mile, he said, “I‘ve always had a fascination with the road mile because it is such a unique event that allows you to show off your speed to the average runners out there. I’ll keep coming back to it even if I lose one year, because then I will have to fight to get my title back.”
Torrence sees the experience from the road mile as a benefit to his efforts on the track. “Physically, it may not be the best preparation for the track, but anytime you win a race, the confidence and adrenaline you get is definitely a positive thing,” Torrence said. “It helps my mental attitude heading into USA Championships on the track and getting to Daegu for World Championships.”
When Torrence’s competitive days on the track (and road) are over, he simply wants to leave an imprint on the sport. While Torrence would love to be remembered for an inspiring performance on the track, he is equally passionate about contributing to the sport behind the scenes.
“I’m in love with this sport and would love to be a part of it and help improve it. I think there will always be a lot to be done,” Torrence said. “Whether it is coaching or putting on meets, if I could stay involved, I think it would be a great profession after I am done competing.”
Torrence is an athlete with many talents and aspirations of returning to school for a masters or law degree, but the best way to understand Torrence, is simply to watch him run.
“The best thing to do is watch the races and find out who I am. I think races really show a glimpse into a personality and you really see a person’s emotions along with their physical ability in the middle of the race. If you want to know more about me, keep watching; that’s who I am.”
2011 USA 1 Mile Road Championship: