An Appreciation Of Emma Coburn’s Longevity

By David Melly

May 8, 2024

Last week, American track fans were hit with the news that three-time Olympian Emma Coburn broke her ankle in her Diamond League season opener and will not be able to recover in time for a chance at making her fourth Olympic team next month. It’s heartbreaking news for the Team Boss veteran, and caps off a really tough couple of years for Coburn, who lost her mother to cancer last spring and spent most of the last six months returning from a season-ending hamstring injury, only to get hurt in her first race back.

Emma is not just a longtime friend of CITIUS; she’s been a barrier-breaking (and clearing) athlete for well over a decade in the U.S. racing scene. With 10 national titles and three global medals, few American distance runners have ever been as consistent for as long as she has. When Coburn won her first U.S. title and qualified for her first national team while still at Colorado, Olivia Markezich was not yet in middle school.

Coburn’s not just a fierce competitor – she’s also been a vocal advocate for clean sport and a friend/mentor to a growing stable of young athletes. Team Boss, the training group Coburn formed in 2016 with her husband Joe Bosshard after leaving longtime coaches Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs, now features five Olympians and athletes competing in distances ranging from 800m to the marathon.

Coburn was the American record holder in the steeplechase from 2014 to 2018 and owns a whopping 14 of the 20 fastest marks ever run by a U.S. woman in the event. Every normal year from 2016 to 2022 (2020 pandemic season notwithstanding), Coburn clocked at least one sub-9:10 steeplechase – a barrier that only two other Americans have ever broken.

That kind of streak is exceedingly rare in a sport where pros’ peaks are more often measured in seasons than decades; even more so in an event as hard on the body as the steeplechase. For comparison, world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, who’s one year younger than Coburn and is inarguably one of the all-time greats in the event, only has two global medals and didn’t get back within 10 seconds of her 2018 PB until last season.

At 33 years young, we’re certainly not expecting Coburn to go riding off into the sunset any time soon and hopefully all these stats and streaks will be more impressive when she makes the team in 2028. But in the meantime, let’s raise a glass to one of the greats and send high-bone-density vibes her way as she resets and recovers.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.