Gaining speed with Worlds on the horizon
[ by Than Acuff ]
Emma Coburn ran away from the field, including 2020 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs, for her tenth 3,000-meter steeplechase U.S. National title with a time of 9:10.63 on Sunday, June 26. The win appears to have Coburn back on track after a tumultuous time following the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, held in 2021 due to COVID.
Coburn was primed for another trip to the podium in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 games having taken bronze at the 2016 Olympics and winning Gold at the 2017 World Championships. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out as hoped as Coburn struggled at the most recent Olympic Games to finish 14th and was eventually disqualified after a video review for stepping off the track. Following the Olympics, Coburn realized it was time for a break.
“I still had a few races on the calendar after the Olympics and, emotionally, I was so fired up to go back and race because I was feeling good going into Tokyo,” says Coburn. “But my body was fried after Tokyo and was begging for a break.”
Coburn returned to Crested Butte to focus on the 5th annual Elk Run 5k and after another successful event, she opted to sit out the winter indoor season as well and focus on training.
“I got back into training in the fall but wasn’t really feeling normal until February,” says Coburn.
Once Coburn returned to her full training regimen, things returned to normal for her as she prepared for the 2022 season.
“In 2022 I’ve put together solid and consistent training,” says Coburn.
She returned to the Diamond League professional racing scene at the Prefontaine Classic in late May finishing in eighth place with a time of 9:18.19.
“It was pretty mediocre,” admits Coburn. “Tactically I made a mistake and went out too slow and the leaders got away from me. I still felt good out there. I just wasn’t aggressive enough in the race.”
Following the Prefontaine Classic, Coburn turned to the 1500-meters for a training race and came close to hitting her personal record time.
“That was more proof that I am on the right path,” says Coburn.
Further proof of that fact then came last week as Coburn won her 10th National steeplechase title at the USTAF Championships in back in Eugene, Oregon with a time of 9:10.63. After starting out near the back of the pack, Coburn quickly made her way into third and eventually second place. With two laps to go, she made her move to the front leaving her closest competitors in her wake.
“I felt really relaxed, controlled and within myself,” says Coburn. “It was reassuring to be running that fast and still feeling so calm, so I started pushing the pace and never looked back.”
The 2022 World Championships are now three weeks away at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. It’s the first time ever the track and field World Championships are on American soil.
“Fortunately, Worlds are in Eugene,” says Coburn. “Typically, U.S. athletes have to travel so far with an overnight flight for the World Championships. Now I can fly out of Gunnison and land in Eugene three hours later. I think all of Team USA is going to have a really good meet.”
Until then, Coburn will be in Crested Butte continuing with training and race preparations. Following the World Championships, Coburn will head to Europe in August for a few more Diamond League races concluding with the Diamond League Championships in Zurich, Switzerland on September 9.
At which point, all of her focus will be entirely on the 6th Annual Elk Run 5k set for Saturday, September 24 right here in Crested Butte. The race will have several elite runners on hand for their race as well as the high school race, but the bread and butter are the everyday, or once a week, or once a year, participants. All proceeds from the race go to support Living Journeys, a non-profit cancer support group here in the Gunnison Valley.
“We’ve raised $214,000 so far and we’d like to raise another $75,000 for Living Journeys this year,” says Coburn. “Eighty-percent of the racers are from outside of the Gunnison Valley, so I’d definitely like to get more locals excited to participate in this hometown event.”
Information, registration and Elk Run 5k apparel can all be found at elkrun5k.com.