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On Sunday, Emma Coburn won her tenth (yes, tenth) U.S. championship at age 31 with an impressive and seemingly effortless steeplechase race in Eugene, Oregon. Her sustained superiority in the sport is inspiring, as is her openness and vulnerability along with her success (an emotional post-race video, below, has been making the rounds—and making us cry).
Her win was a welcome comeback after a rough race at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, where Coburn fell in the final lap and was disqualified, although she did finish the race. “This year, our focus and philosophy changed quite a lot following Tokyo,” says her coach and husband, Joe Bosshard (who Cory McGee thinks is “going to go down in history as one of the greatest distance coaches of all time”).
When we asked for a go-to workout for Coburn this training cycle, Bosshard provided a much better response: “We try not to use workouts to prove our fitness as much anymore,” he said. Instead, volume has become the name of the game for Coburn post-Tokyo.
“We simply repeat a lot of boring training for long periods of time,” says Bosshard. Since December, Coburn’s first time running less than 75 miles in a week was the week of the U.S. championships. She averaged 90 miles a week for 28 weeks.
It’s not a bonkers level of mileage—Team Boss teammate Aisha Praught Leer has also cited around 100 miles a week as her usual training load—but for a track star to sustain that steady volume over such a long period of time with no injuries is seriously impressive. “I eat a lot of food, and I lift weights a lot. That’s helped me stay pretty durable,” Coburn told us after her championship win.
There is a treadmill workout Coburn does once or twice a week all year long where she runs 6 x 1K (often more volume) with a short recovery at a “very comfortable effort.” (Very comfortable for Coburn being half marathon pace or slower, monitored by feel). Utilizing that workout three days before the prelims helped Bosshard confirm that she was in peak condition heading into the champs.
“She was able to get down to around 5:10 per mile pace for her last few reps without challenging herself. This was done at 8,500 feet,” he says. “That workout, along with her 4:04 1500 where she felt very in control, told us we were in a nice place heading into the U.S. championships.”
Bosshard likes to use the treadmill to remove outside factors—weather, terrain—to be able to have a more “apples to apples comparison.” They also knew Coburn was fit by running some 1K repeats at around 3:15 per K. “Seems weird,” he says. “But we knew what it meant.”
Next up is the world championships, also in Eugene, with the steeplechase heats taking place Saturday, July 16. Coburn is joined on Team USA by Courtney Frerichs and Courtney Wayment and worlds will be broadcast on NBC Sports and Peacock.