Rio bronze medalist Emma Coburn is among track and field's top steeplechasers. Since the 2016 Games, the Colorado native began training under her fiance and now husband; won a world title in 2017 – the first American athlete to do so and only second at a global championships since the 1952 Olympics; and took silver at 2019 Worlds in Doha.
As part of our preparation for the Tokyo Games, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to multiple athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play. Here’s what we found out about Coburn:
Emma Coburn, Track & Field
Birthplace: Boulder, Colo.
Hometown: Crested Butte, Colo.
Residence: Boulder, Colo.
@emmajcoburn | emmacoburn
How have your parents influenced your athletic career?
My parents were very influential in my athletic career. We grew up playing lots of sports and doing lots of adventures as a family. Climbing 14ers (14,000-foot mountains in Colorado), biking, skiing. Through my childhood we were always active as a family. My parents traveled all over the world to watch me race and have missed only a handful of my sporting events in my life. They are awesome.
What is your other job? And why do you do it?
I sell exercise bands, Emma Mini-Resistance bands. I use these bands for my workouts and always get questions on what my workouts are. I decided to make and sell them so other people could use them, too. This is more of a side hustle and isn't a big part of my day-to-day life but is fun! I also own several apartments that I manage and so sometimes have tours when looking for tenants, repairs, etc.
My husband and I started a 5K benefitting a local charity, Emma Coburn's Elk Run 5k. We have raised $90,000 in the three years of racing. We do that all on our own, so that can be a lot of work (securing sponsors, racers, vendors, etc.)
Any pets? Names, breeds, social accounts?
Yes[, a dog]. His name is Arthur, he is a mutt and is 15 pounds of cuddles. He does not have a social media account.
Hometown's top five spots, how has the municipality shaped you and where else have you lived?
The Secret Stash (pizza, Notorious F.I.G); Pitas in Paradise (Greek salad, gyro wrap, thai bowl); Camp 4 Coffee (coffee); Elk Avenue Prime (steak); hiking Mt. Crested Butte; and running The Lower Loop.
Crested Butte is a very active town and was a big impact in my athletic development. Lots of playing outdoors – hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding. I did it all and love it. It made me develop as a coordinated athlete.
Born and raised in Colorado. Boulder and Crested Butte. My husband is from Wisconsin, so I am now a Green Bay Packers fan and a [Milwaukee] Bucks fan.
What's your training like?
I try to sleep nine hours a night, plus a 60- to 90-minute nap most days. I run at least 60 minutes a day, but if it’s a workout day with a lift and a second run, I might spend three and a half to four hours of the day training.
- 7 a.m. - wake up
- 9 a.m. - practice starts (every other day is a workout day – an easy day is just 8 miles; a workout day would be a long run, up to 18 miles, a tempo run or track workout)
- 11 a.m. - go to gym and lift; noon eat brunch
- 1 p.m. - watch TV and relax, answer emails, etc., nap (workout days a minimum 90-minute nap)
- 3 p.m. - eat
- 5 p.m. - second run (4-5 miles)
- 6 p.m. - cook dinner, eat
- 9 p.m. - bed
I love 1,000-meter repeats. They are super painful, but I like the distance.
- 3-mile warm up jog
- 4-8 x 1,000m with 200m-400m jog (amounts depending on pace)
- some sprinting after
- 2- to 3-mile cool down jog
Most grueling workout:
I got lost on a long run once and meant to run 18 miles but ran 20. It wasn't the most grueling workout but it was defeating when we realized we were in the wrong spot!
A lot of people are surprised to know that distance runners run 10 times per week. So we run every day, but sometimes twice a day.
Have you been seriously injured? If so, please describe what happened and your recovery.
I ran the NCAA championship with a stress fracture in my sacrum. I won the race, it was super painful, and I had to crawl around in my hotel room that evening because I couldn't walk. I was out for the rest of the season after that. I took my time healing, and then slowly built up my training. Giving my body proper time to heal was important.
What's your nutrition plan? And what do you indulge in for dessert?
- Breakfast, pre-run: toast with peanut butter and honey, coffee, Nuun
- Brunch: two eggs, French toast, sausage, coffee, Nuun
- Afternoon snack: toast with peanut butter and honey (if I have a second run) or yogurt and fruit, apple, popcorn or salad
- Post second run: whatever is in the fridge, lunch meat, cheese, grapes; a handful of chocolate chips
- Dinner: homemade Bolognese with spaghetti and a salad
- Dessert: Whole Foods vegan chocolate chip cookies (I'm not vegan but these are so good), any junk food cereal (Fruity Pebbles, Honeycomb, Frosted Mini-Wheats)
I eat a bagel with peanut butter and banana three hours before my race. Before I leave for the track, I visualize my race.
Earliest memories of both track and field and watching the Olympics?
Racing my older siblings on the beach in Mexico when I was maybe 3 or 4. Also remember being 7 years old and climbing my first 14er and I beat my siblings to the top and felt proud. Also, when I was 6 or 7, I won the Presidential Physical Fitness Award (red patch) and was the only one in my grade to win that one. I was not coordinated or athletic as a little kid (or I didn't see myself that way) and that was the first time I remember thinking that I was maybe a good athlete.
I didn't like running at all, I liked winning races, but I didn't like running. It wasn't until I met Joe Bosshard (my husband) when I was a junior in high school that I started to like it. Joe was a good runner, and he wanted to run in college. I ran a steeplechase for the first time in between junior and senior year and qualified for nationals in it. I started getting recruited but didn't know if I wanted to run at the next level. Joe did. I liked him, so I started thinking that way too.
I played hockey from ages 8-14 — it was co-ed, two girls on the team but mostly boys, so when we all were 14 they were just so much bigger than me, it wasn't fun anymore. My first moment watching anything related to the Olympics was when I was about 10 years old. I watched the documentary "Do You Believe in Miracles?" about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. I watched that documentary every night before bed [and] could recite every line. Those players and coaches were my heroes. In 2016, I got to meet Al Michaels and have never been more starstruck.
Any specific breakthrough moment?
In 2011, I ran the world-championship standard and realized I could qualify for the world championships. That year I won the U.S. championships and made the final at the world championships. That year is when I started to really talk about the Olympics.
What would you change about your sport?
I wish that my event was included in the Diamond League final. I wish individuals were highlighted more. I wish there was more money — prize money and appearance fees, especially.
Who is your coach?
My husband Joe Bosshard is my coach. He started coaching me in October 2016. He is the best, I love him. We have a good dynamic. I trust him, he trusts me. He knows how to push me and knows what my limits are, so he pushes me right to the edge but knows that I'll be able to hang on.
Who do you socialize with the most within track and field?
I socialize with a lot of the athletes I meet at track meets. I'm friends with the other Americans in my event, mainly Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley, as well as some of the other steeplers, Aussie Genevieve Gregson and German Gesa Krause.
I have a great training group of women so I usually socialize with them. Americans Cory McGee and Kaela Edwards, Jamaican Aisha [Praught-]Leer, and South African Dominique Scott[-Efurd].
Most interesting teammate? Biggest rival?
They all make me smile and laugh :) We laugh a lot!
My biggest rivals are the Kenyan women, Beatrice Chepkeoch and Hyvin Keyang, and then the other American, Courtney Frerichs. Courtney and I get along great and talk a lot outside of track.
Biggest obstacle you've overcome? Biggest fear?
Like most athletes, I have had injuries that have been frustrating. 2013 NCAA injury (that I talked about) kept me from racing the US Championships in 2013 where I was favored to win. I had a chronic achilles injury in my lead up to 2016 olympics that was tough mentally and physically.
No fears :)
Role model? Greatest influence?
I love watching someone like Allyson Felix be continuously so successful in her event, year after year after year. Running well when the pressure is on.
My husband Joe has been the biggest help. He has supported me since high school, and now coaches me
Advice you'd give to someone younger, and your protege in track and field?.
Play other sports too. Have fun. You won't win every time or hit your goal every time and that's okay. Injuries happen, loss happens, but just keep showing up.
I've loved seeing Sydney McLaughlin's progression and growth. It has been fun to watch!
Anyone tell you that you wouldn't succeed?
I had foot injuries in high school and went to a doctor who told me "some people just aren't meant to be runners." So, I went to a different doctor. I doubt the first doctor remembers, but he made a BIG impression on the 16-year-old me.
Winter Olympics event you'd like to try?
I grew up skiing, so freestyle skiing seems like the most fun. Winter Olympian Aaron Blunk is from my hometown. :)
Where do you keep your medal?
My bronze medal from Rio sits next two my gold and silver medals from the 2017 and 2019 world championships. They are on a shelf on my living room.
My parents call me Boo or Boo Boo sometimes.
Any hidden talents?
I'm okay at the Worm and Moonwalking.
I have one tattoo, Olympic rings on my foot.
Favorite quote? Personal motto?
My favorite quote is "anything can happen, child, anything can be" by Shel Silverstein.
My personal motto is Work Work Work Work Work and It's Supposed to Be Hard.
I cook almost every day. I bake only once a week maybe, but anytime I have reason to bake a cake or something, I will.