ASICS Mammoth Track Club has two top runners in this Sunday’s L.A. MarathonTwo elite runners from ASICS Mammoth Track Club are racing in the L.A. Marathon, also sponsored by ASICS, on Sunday.
Lauren Kleppin, 25, and Gabe Proctor, 23, both moved to Mammoth last fall to join the Track Club coached by Deena and Andrew Kastor. The Sheet met up with both runners before they left town on Thursday.
Dressed from head to toe in Asics gear, Kleppin and Proctor are charming, cute, and unassuming. Kleppin sports nose and septum piercings, which “makes me look tough,” she said.
“I had an Afro last year and I was going to dread it but I decided to cut it off,” Proctor said. “You gotta look good. Feel good. Race good.”
The race on Sunday will be Proctor’s debut marathon and Kleppin’s third. She ran Carlsbad and Green Bay marathons last year, while being a mountain bum in Big Bear. But moving to Mammoth has kicked her career up a notch. “Having the support of the team and consistent training this year has made all the difference,” Kleppin said. “All my efforts have been focused.”
Proctor and Kleppin feel confident going into Sunday’s race: “Our workouts have been very consistent. We can’t prepare anymore,” Proctor said. Coach Andrew Kastor also seems confident about his athletes. “Proctor has a realistic shot at the top five,” Kastor said. “He will run between 2:10 and 2:12.”
Kleppin has the slowest personal best time among the elite runners, but she is wearing bib #11 (roughly equating to her seeding in the race) and Kastor predicts she can run the race between 2:33 and 2:36, which should put her somewhere in the fifth to seventh place range. Kleppin said “I know I can run a better time now.”
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kleppin officially began running in eighth grade and has never stopped. “It just kept making sense,” she said.
Proctor didn’t start running until his last year of high school. “Running was one of the things I was good at,” Proctor said. “I wanted to play soccer and basketball but running felt right. Plus I was winning every race.” Proctor grew up in South Royalton, Vermont after being adopted from Ethiopia, along with his two younger siblings, at the age of 10. He trained at the Dartmouth Campus, in Hanover, New Hampshire because his school didn’t have a track club.
Kleppin and Proctor both ran for Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison before coming to Mammoth. “Moving from Gunnison to here, we had the least amount of change I think,” Proctor said.
“Running was really the only thing to do,” Kleppin said of Western State. “It was in the middle of nowhere.”
Kleppin majored in Art—painting watercolors primarily. Proctor majored in Exercise and Sport Science. The college is a small Division II school, so while both were Div. II national champions, they are still relatively unknown in the running world. “We’re like dark horses,” Kleppin said.
It’s just a coincidence that Kleppin and Proctor both ended up in Mammoth. They contacted Kastor separately to become a part of the Club. “I emailed him a bunch,” Kleppin said. Kastor’s reply: “You have to come visit. Make sure it’s the right fit.”
Proctor discovered the Club online and told Kastor: “I want to come, sight unseen.” But Kastor made him visit first, before committing to Mammoth. “It was the best thing I’ve done,” Proctor said.
Based on their mechanics and running style Kastor thought they both would be good marathoners.
Proctor and Kleppin spend the majority of their time in Mammoth training and have a verbal agreement with Kastor they won’t do anything to jeopardize their running careers. “There’s so many things I want to do outside of running,” Proctor said. “But the risk of injury is too great.”
Kleppin knows this firsthand. She tripped on a small rock while hiking to Devil’s Postpile in the fall and was out for a month with a calf injury. “I was just too eager when I first moved here,” Kleppin said. “I have a snowboard collecting dust under my bed right now. I feel like I miss out on half the culture in Mammoth.”
When asked if they had any vices, Kleppin quickly answered: “Beer. I’m a beer drinker.” Proctor answered: “Sweets… cakes, brownies, anything. Would you call that a vice?”
Both Kleppin and Proctor have their sites set on racing in the Olympic Marathon. “We just have to stay healthy and do our best,” Proctor said. For now, Proctor and Kleppin plan to train with the Kastors for the rest of their careers. “I told Coach that I’ll stay here until I retire, until I’m 30. I’m not running after I’m 30. I just want to do something else, I guess.”
“This is a great place to train and the Club has a good reputation, especially now with the ASICS sponsorship.” (for details, see Lunch’s column on p. 2)
The entire ASICS Mammoth Track Club will be at the LA Marathon to cheer on Kleppin and Proctor. You can watch it live starting at 7 a.m. Sunday on KTLA.