First-Year Pro Gabe Proctor Dreaming Big

Gabe Proctor is looking toward the marathon at the 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Western State College

The 23-year-old is excited for professional half-marathon debut at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose on Sunday. 

As a 10-year-old living in Ethiopia, a country that produces some of the best distance runners in the world, Gabe Proctor had never heard of running legends like former marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie, or repeat Olympic gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele. Back then, back before he discovered his talent for distance running, Proctor dreamed of playing basketball.

At the time, Proctor’s life was about to dramatically change. His mother had passed away and his father couldn’t raise his family, so he and his siblings were put up for adoption.

Jim Proctor, then the pastor at the United Church of South Royalton in Vermont, and his wife eventually adopted Gabe, along with his two younger siblings.

It wasn’t until his senior year in high school — when he met up with Jeff Johnson, a coach at Hanover High School in neighboring New Hampshire — that Gabe began to realize his running abilities. Proctor was attending Mid-Vermont Christian School, which had no track program.

Fast-forward five years to last May at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships. Proctor, a senior running for Western State Colorado University, won national titles at 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Upon graduating from Western in May, he reached out to Andrew Kastor of the Mammoth Track Club in California.

“I just contacted coach Andrew via email and told him my times, and he brought me over to visit. I just knew in my mind, and in my heart, most importantly, that this was the place for me,” he admits. “I experienced the positive energy from my teammates and coach Andrew and felt like this was it for me.”

Since making the move to Mammoth this past summer, Proctor has found his groove as a first-year professional. “I absolutely love this team,” he says. “I like it a lot here.”

On Sunday, Proctor will race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon, his professional debut at the distance. He says he’s using the event as a fitness check. “The workouts have been really good,” he admits. “I’d like to make this one count.” Proctor says he’s clocked 50 minutes for 10 miles at altitude—something that should bolster his confidence significantly on Sunday. He’s been also logging 20-mile training runs and feels that the longer distances have really tested his body. The flat, fast San Jose course that begins at W. Santa Clara St. and Almaden Blvd. and comes to an exciting and scenic finish at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose should help with clocking a fast time.

That said, the 23-year-old Proctor is aiming to go under 65 minutes on Sunday, but he freely divulges that his teammates think he can “way faster than that.” San Jose will be his first Rock ‘n’ Roll event and Proctor says he’s looking forward to the bands along the way. “I’m really excited. I get pumped by music,” Proctor says. “But if I’m really tired I may slip into my own thoughts and shut everything down, but once I see a mile marker and hear a band jamming it will keep me going and give me a second wind.”

Looking ahead, Proctor is focused on the 2020 Olympics—specifically, the marathon. “I will do everything I can to make the 2016 Games,” he says. “But everything to me is 2020 in the marathon. That’s all I think about. It’s a long ways, but I will do everything I can to make sure that it happens.”

Proctor is a deep thinker and when he reflects on his life thus far, he says he’s very fortunate. “I’ve been given everything, and so I need to make the best of it. I remind myself constantly that there are a lot of people who have it worse than I do. I’m in a great position to succeed.”

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