Emma Coburn’s Elk Run 5k September 30
by Than Acuff
Almost one year ago, former Crested Butte Titan, CU track and field national champion and current New Balance professional athlete Emma Coburn won the bronze medal in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The first American to ever win a medal in the event, Coburn set a new American record in the process, with a time of 9:07.63.
Since then, Coburn has kept the train rolling on both the professional and the personal levels. Coburn switched coaches, turning to her longtime boyfriend and now fiancée Joe Bosshard (also a former Titan and CU Buff) to be her head coach.
In addition, Coburn slowed things down on the training and racing regimen as she spent some time rehabbing an Achilles injury. She returned to the racing fray in January at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix meet in Boston, where she joined three other U.S. track and field Olympians to break the world indoor record in the distance medley.
After a winter’s worth of training and preparation, Coburn was back at it, opening the professional Diamond League track and field season with a race in Doha, Qatar the first week of May. Coburn posted a fifth-place finish there with a time of 9:14.
She returned to the States, and back to Crested Butte, to continue training for her next Diamond League race, the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. The winter’s rest and training in Crested Butte appeared to have paid off, as Coburn placed fourth in Oregon with a time of 9:07.96, just three-tenths of a second shy of her own American record time.
More training and more racing meant Coburn would be competing in the U.S. National Championships in Sacramento, Calif. June 23-25. While Coburn had five national steeplechase titles to her name, the weather proved to be a bit troublesome as she readied to defend her title.
“It was well over 100 degrees on the track,” says Coburn. “The goal of that race was to manage the conditions and keep control of the race. No really new strategy, form or tactics, just respect the conditions.”
Coburn came out more cautious than usual but as the pace proved slower than she liked, she stepped into the lead 100 meters into the race and kept it going to the finish line, posting a time of 9:20.28 for her sixth national title.
Coburn now has her sights set on the track and field world championships in London, England August 4-13. She leaves on August 3 with her preliminary race on August 9 and the finals on August 11. It’s her third trip to the worlds with an 11th-place finish in 2011 and a fifth-place finish in 2015, a race in which she felt she had a shot at the podium.
“I got squeezed toward the back of the pack on the water jump,” says Coburn. “That was a real disappointment because I was running really strong.”
Going into the race in London ranked fifth in the world, Coburn feels she has a shot at some hardware again, but it’s going to be hard. According to Coburn, the field is gaining speed at a breakneck pace. The previous world record of 8:58.81 was set in 2008 and was perceived as untouchable until 2016, when a new world record time of 8:52.78 was set. Since then a handful of women steeplers have been flirting with the elusive sub–nine-minute mark.
“The women’s steeplechase in the last 16 months has just blown up—it’s at a whole new level,” explains Coburn. “I definitely feel I’m capable of another personal record mark but it’s going to take a very calculated and courageous race from me. I’m excited and I’m ready but it’s going to be my toughest race to date.”
Coburn has a busy fall following the world championships as she will close out the racing season with three more races, head to Mexico for her bachelorette/bachelor party, get married in Hawaii, and host the inaugural Emma Coburn’s Elk Run 5K in Crested Butte on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 10 a.m.
The race starts and finishes at the intersection of 3rd and Elk and the event is a fundraiser for Living Journeys and also a way for Coburn to say thanks to the Crested Butte community.
“It’s such a small community that’s given me so much support over the years and I felt with my racing schedule the way it is, I haven’t been capable of giving back as much as I’ve wanted to,” says Coburn. “Joe and I wanted a way to create a legacy event that gives back to the community even after I retire from racing, and we decided to make this an annual event.”
Registration and information about the event can be found on www.elkrun5k.com.
“It’s been a lot of work but we’re really excited,” says Coburn. “There will be swag bags for participants, a live band, food vendors and we’re hoping that people come out and, if they can’t or don’t feel like running, support the racers and enjoy the festive afternoon.”