The 25-year old took over 13 minutes off her 26.2-mile personal best at last weekend’s ASICS L.A. Marathon.
The year is young, but it’s been a good 2014 so far for 25-year-old Lauren Kleppin of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Kleppin, who trains under coach Andrew Kastor as a member of the ASICS Mammoth Track Club, finished third at last Sunday’s ASICS L.A. Marathon, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 48 seconds. It was a huge breakthrough for Kleppin, who ran 2:42:17 to win last year’s Carlsbad Marathon in her only other try at the hallowed 26.2-mile distance.
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In January, Kleppin ran 1:12:12 to finish as runner-up at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Houston behind Serena Burla, surprising even herself.
“Andrew set me up to run maybe 5:40 (per mile),” she said after that race. “He said, ‘don’t be scared if you run 5:30.’ I was running 5:27′s and I was like, don’t be scared. Oh my God.”
Kleppin, who was a nine-time Division II All-American at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., will lead Team USA at the IAAF/AL Bank World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark on March 29.
We caught up with Kleppin earlier this week and talked about her massive marathon breakthrough, her training group in Mammoth and her mindset heading toward the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Let’s start off by talking about the L.A. Marathon. Big race for you, third-place, huge 13-minute PR. Take me through the race. What were your expectations going in, how did things progress during the race and how are you feeling now just a few days later?
I went in pretty confident after my runner-up finish at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships. Training was going well and I was really just kind of hoping for a top-5 finish. Looking at my competitors I saw some incredibly fast times and knew that the field would allow me to run a personal best. It’s starting to sink in now. I’ve had a couple restless nights. I was on a run alone today [Wednesday] and I kind of got a chance to really think about how things are changing so quickly and how they already have changed. Crossing that finish line and seeing 2:28:48, that was such an amazing feeling and I had all these emotions welling up inside. I couldn’t help but think of everyone who helped me get here.
Speaking of those who have helped you get there, you’re a member of the ASICS Mammoth Track Club, which has been around for a while now but in the past few years has gone through some changes as far as coaching and sponsorship is concerned. What’s the group dynamic like these days and how has being part of the team helped you progress from being a good marathoner to now one of the best in the country?
First of all, Andrew Kastor does so much for the Mammoth Track Club. I mean, I’m just astounded by everything that he fits into one day, taking care of seven athletes and just balancing all our schedules and getting us all together for workouts, helping us motivate each other day after day. It’s his brainchild. I’m just incredibly thankful for him to be behind all that. The group has been great. We’re definitely a unique little crowd. Everyone has their own personalities which keeps the days interesting, keeps the training interesting as we go to work every day and put in the miles. It’s fantastic to chase after Deena [Kastor] along with the other ladies, Bria Wetsch and Lauren Jimison. Those are my two roommates who I live with. They’re both incredible people and they push and pull me at practice. We keep each other up emotionally as well with that extra support and we’re more than just teammates, we’re good friends and kind of a family.
You just mentioned Deena, who is arguably the greatest female marathoner in U.S. history. How has it been being under her wing as she’s joined the Masters ranks and your career has just started to take off? How has she advised you as you really start to make the marathon your focus?
She’s definitely helped show me that running is not just an investment for a year or two, it’s a lifestyle. She has had a great, long career and she’s still competing and she just balances it so well with everything else in her life and that is something that I strive to do in my career as well, is to keep running healthy and stay balanced in my life.
Getting back to your situation with Mammoth Track Club and having Andrew [Kastor] as your coach, how has your training changed since you joined the group? What are you doing differently from what you were doing before and how have those adjustments contributed to your most recent breakthroughs?
Being part of the ASICS Mammoth Track Club has given me some extra support as far as living, massage and things like that, which has allowed me to focus less on things like paying for groceries and rent, so I have more time to train and that’s definitely been a big influence. But also, prior to moving here I was coaching myself, based on no scientific knowledge. I mean I was working hard, but I don’t know what I was doing exactly. Giving that job over to Andrew and trusting him has really helped, but having that relationship and knowing that I’m running for someone else and having his work put into it as well has really helped me race well.
Last question: Looking ahead to the Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, with this performance under your belt, along with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships earlier this year, how do approach the next two years? Are you starting to think that, ‘Hey, I have a real shot at making the team if I continue to progress’?
Definitely. The focus for the next two years is to just keep putting myself in races where I can challenge myself against the best, and learn from those experiences. I look forward to some defeats in the future because I know I’ll learn from them, but I also look forward to some more successes, so yeah, just challenging myself to be a better athlete. Aside from challenging myself, I want to focus on my health. You have to stay healthy and be consistent in your training and from here on out that’s a major factor.