“All of the pieces are coming together”
by Than Acuff
Emma Coburn continues on pace for a strong finish to her 2019 steeplechase season, having just won her eighth U.S. national title, her sixth in a row, on Sunday, July 28 at the USTAF National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Good thing too, as she is the defending world champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and closes the year with the IAAF track and field world championships in Doha, Qatar at the end of September.
While Coburn was the odds-on favorite to win the national title, anything can happen in a race, especially in the steeplechase. She opted for a specific tactic at the race in Des Moines continuing her mix of strength with smarts when competing, and focused her efforts on the end of the race rather than the start. As a result, she settled into the middle of the pack until the pace picked up for her and the field.
“We really got moving the last three laps,” says Coburn.
Courtney Frerichs jumped out front at that point and Coburn matched her, taking the lead with just over two laps to go and then pulled away for the win with a time of 9:25.63.
While over 20 seconds slower than her personal best time of 9:02, it was the little things that mattered most to Coburn as her finishing split time of 66 seconds on the last lap proved outstanding.
“It went exactly according to plan and I don’t think I’ve ever had a faster last kilometer,” says Coburn. “Even though the times were slow, I had a really strong race.”
Coburn readily credits her most recent title and the way she is feeling to her time spent in Crested Butte this summer. While training runs were hard to come by earlier in the summer due to the copious amount of snow left over from winter, she returned to her hometown for July to get back out on the trails she loves and receive a little hometown family support.
“I spent a lot of time in Crested Butte this summer for a couple of reasons,” explains Coburn. “For one, the lifestyle and support from my parents. I was able to live at home. My dad helped with timing my training and my mom cooked meals so all of my energy went into running and recovery. Plus, being at 9,000 feet really helps. Since I grew up here, my body really clicks in Crested Butte—it feels like that’s where I belong. Also, the beautiful trails and soft running surface offer great training benefits. It just makes me super happy and at peace to be in Crested Butte.”
Coburn now has her sights set on two big races in the next two months to close out 2019. First, she heads to Zurich, Switzerland for the Diamond League Championships on August 29, the culmination of the professional track and field race season.
“That race has a lot of prize money and a lot of prestige,” says Coburn. “And everyone who will be racing at the world championships will be there so I will get a gauge of where I am at.”
She will then recover and refocus for the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, where she looks to defend her 2017 world steeplechase title. The preliminaries are on September 27 with the finals are on September 30.
“I have two really big steeples left,” says Coburn. “Training in Crested Butte was the most crucial piece of my prep. I’m feeling stronger and quicker than I ever have before. All of the pieces are coming together.”