Buffalo Soldier: Exclusive Interview With Emma Coburn

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Jul. 5, 2011
  • Updated Mar. 15, 2012 at 5:10 PM UTC You did a range of events in high school. What was your first exposure to the steeple? Did you ever try the hurdles?

EC: That’s a funny story. After my junior track season, I wanted to run the 800 at the Great Southwestern Classic in Albuquerque. But it didn’t seem worth it to travel that far just for that short a race, so my dad looked at the event schedule and saw that the only other distance event on a different day from the 800 was the steeplechase. Before we went to New Mexico I went to Western State and the coach there showed me the basics about steeple technique. I won that steeplechase [after running 2:16.00 in the 800 to place third], then was fourth at Nationals. Did you have a chance to run any other steeple races between Nationals your junior year and the end of your senior year?

EC: Not during the season.  I won again at Great Southwest as a senior and was second at Nationals [to current Providence standout Shelby Greany].

Coburn, shown here coming off the water jump at the recent USA Championships, ran her personal best of 9:40.51, on May 1 at the Peyton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, California. Photo: Mike Scott How do you work with, or around, being at altitude when you have to get ready for strongly anaerobic events lasting less than ten minutes?

EC: I’ve never really noticed a difference. Crested Butte, where I grew up and still train a lot, is at 8,800 feet, so in a way coming to Boulder [mean elevation approximately 5,300'] is like coming to low altitude. You ran a 4:36 mile indoors last winter and then 4:14 for 1500 meters at the Mt. SAC meet early in the outdoor season, which was your only 1500 of the spring. Do you see yourself developing as both a miler and a steepler, a la Anna (Willard) Pierce and Jenny Simpson?

EC: I’d really like to. I think any distance event complements the steeplechase. Unfortunately because of the schedule I only get one chance to do a 1500 outdoors each spring while I’m still in college, so that event has to wait. With the steeplechase being more of a strength event, it would seem that top steeplers would be especially fearsome cross-country runners. Although you were a solid 53st at NCAAs last year, do you feel as if you haven’t put it together in that discipline yet, or did you merely get a lot stronger between last fall and now?

EC: Cross-country is definitely a weak link for me and always has been. In high school that had mostly to do with not training enough in the summer, but I died in last 500 meters at Nationals last fall, and went from the mid-30s to 53rd. I’m okay with being stronger in track — some people just are — but I do have unfinished business in cross.

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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