May 21 2018
How running after losing my leg has helped me find my identity and purpose.
Emma Coburn may have grown up in a small town in Colorado, but that’s not stopping this steeplechaser* from pursuing her international dreams. While the 26-year-old has now earned an Olympic medal and won the world championships in the steeplechase, she shares six personal facts with Women’s Running.
*The steeplechase race is a running event where runners must overcome barriers (literally) and go through water jumps strategically placed around a 400-meter track. Coburn will be competing in the 3000-meter race, which requires runners to cover seven and a half laps while conquering 28 barriers and seven water jumps.
No Superstitions Here
Though the middle distance runner is a fan of following routines, like eating the same meal of peanut butter toast and a banana prior to a race, she actively avoids any superstitious habits. “If I find myself reaching for the same pair of socks that I previously won a race in, I’ll purposely choose another pair,” says Coburn. Wanting to believe that winning is credited to her hard work and not a superstition, Coburn doesn’t want to fall prey to a confining belief.
A Different Kind Of Marathon
On the day of a big race, the five-time All-American runner tries to occupy her mind while zoning out and watching a marathon of the hit television show Law & Order. A couple of hours before the competition, she turns off the tube and visualizes her race plan, but typically starts her day off with the series. Sounds like the perfect runner’s definition of Netflix and chill!
Coburn met her boyfriend, Joe Bosshard, in college at the University of Colorado where they both graduated. As a four-time All-American runner himself, Bosshard provides a solid sounding board for Coburn as she trains and prepares for races. “Knowing that I have someone to talk to who truly understands the work I’m doing is comforting,” says Coburn.
In 2014, after improving her personal best four times over that year, Coburn ran the fastest time for an American woman in a 3,000-meter steeplechase race with a finish of 9:11.42. That breaks down to just a touch over 72 seconds per lap around the track while clearing barriers and jumping over water pits!
No Fluke Here
While some might think it’s a fluke that Coburn ended up competing in the steeplechase event, she credits her dad and the Great Southwestern Classic track meet for exposing her to the unique race. After signing up to run the 800-meter distance at the 2007 meet, Coburn’s dad encouraged her to find another distance to add to her itinerary in order to make the trek from Colorado to New Mexico worth the drive. Since the 2000-meter steeplechase event jived with her schedule, she signed up and began training at a local college campus. With shortened prep-time Coburn went on to win the event, qualifying for the Nike Outdoor Championship later that year, where she came in fourth.
Though she doesn’t take for granted the experience of running in the Olympics, Coburn says finding balance is key. Between soaking up the enormity of the event and keeping in mind the seven and half laps ahead are similar to those she’s run many times, it’s all about perspective. “In 2012, I allowed myself to absorb the beauty of the Olympics by participating in the opening ceremony,” she said. “Afterwards, I tried my best to balance the wow factor by focusing on running a distance I’ve run many times before.” As long as she remembers to stay relaxed, happy and confident, Coburn knows she’ll perform well.