Five Ways Emma Coburn, Olympic Steeplechaser, Keeps Race Day in Focus

This track event requires concentration.


The steeplechase is a track and field event that can be intimidating if you don’t know much about it. The Olympic steeplechase is seven laps around the track, which is just under two miles. It requires speed and endurance. There are 28 30-inch barriers and seven 12-foot water jumps. Yes, athletes run with wet shoes. Wipeouts are possible, so steeplechasers must be mentally ready for any eventuality.

Coburn, a Colorado native of 30 years, won her ninth U.S. National title in Eugene, Oregon with an Olympic Trials record time of 9:09.41. The win marked her seventh consecutive national title in the event, according to NBC Sports, and Tokyo is her third Olympic Games. Coburn’s national dominance is not the only thing she has done well at the international level. She won a bronze medal at Rio Olympics 2016 and a gold medal at the 2017 World Championships.

Even American legends sometimes make mistakes.

99% perfect, she wrote on Instagram on July 9 after taking a tumble on the final water barrier at a high-profile meet in Monaco. She was at an American-record pace and in position to win the overall match against her international top rivals. She recovered to finish fourth in 9:09.02, still one of her fastest times this season.

She captioned, “Working on the 1%.” “I feel physically healthy from the fall and I know that my next few weeks are going to be amazing as I prepare for the largest show in Tokyo.”

Although her post seems to indicate that she has taken her fall in stride since then, it wasn’t always easy. Through her participation in world and national competitions, she has become more confident.

Coburn tells SELF by email that she used to suffer from race anxiety as a youngster and would often stand at the starting line feeling nervous. “Now I feel more focused and ready because I have improved my training and am more confident in my work. I am less focused on the negative outcomes now and more on the positive.

SELF spoke with the legendary athlete before the Olympics to find out more about her mental approach to racing and how it might help her win another medal in Tokyo. On August 4, she will compete in the steeplechase final.

1. You can invite some calm before the race.

Researchers have found that meditational phrases, also known as mantras, can calm the brain’s default mode network, potentially improving focus and easing distractions, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.

But these recitations aren’t just for yoga–Coburn uses them on race day to help center her mind for the task at hand.

Coburn states, “I have race mantras often, but it depends on my tactic that particular day.” “When I won 2017 World Championships, it was simply “Stay On It” because I had to follow the leaders for 2,000m and see what happens. It is not always easy to say “Stay relaxed” or “Time to go”, but that is often the mantra.

To keep her mind relatively clear, Coburn also avoids listening to music before her races. To keep her relaxed, Coburn will chat with friends or meditate.

She says, “I’m usually just talking with Joe [Bosshard], her coach and husband] or texting my sister.” “Or I can just lay with my eyes closed, trying to find peace and feel centered.”

2. Stay present.

For endurance events, it is common to achieve “flow state”, which is a state where athletes are completely immersed in the performance. Coburn maintains that she is fully aware of all her surroundings, even in a race on crowded tracks, where pace and positioning are more important than speed.

She says, “I’m almost always present to everything around my,” “I recognize what’s going on and react to it. If necessary, I adjust.” “I don’t get distracted, but I pay attention.

However, this doesn’t mean that she is able to eat the same foods each race.

She says that there are certain races that I am shooting at a particular time. In those races, I might be more concerned with my race splits. “There are also other races like the Olympic Trials or the Olympics where it’s all about the place. So I think more about positioning and any tactic that I can use in that race.

3. Embrace your instincts.

Coburn may have a race plan in mind but she doesn’t let that stop her from taking advantage of opportunities. Coburn actually allows her instincts take control once she reaches the last water barrier.

She made her decisive move to win the 2017 World Championships when she crossed the last water barrier. She didn’t hesitate to make her move when she saw an opening on the inside rail.

She recalls that she was surprised when the inside line opened up and that she was able to take the best lines into the water. “Then I did the water jump and ran home.

Although she was tired at the finish of the race, she believes it is easier to maintain a fast pace while clearing hurdles. The jumps are more instinctual.

At the press conference after her Olympic Trials victory, she stated that it was harder to create a beautiful, graceful hurdle form when you run slow. She said, “A faster pace makes it easier to reach the barriers at a greater speed and has a longer leg.” This can prevent her from overthinking and stuttering.

4. Your training should be trusted.

Coburn says that her race anxiety started in high school when she was first competing. She didn’t have confidence in her training and felt unprepared. She now uses the hard work she has put in throughout the year to not only fuel her body but to also reassure her mind.

She says, “In general, in a race you shouldn’t ask yourself to do something that you aren’t capable of. So I remind myself that I’m prepared, that this is something I have worked hard for, and that I am ready.”

Coburn trains seven days per week to be in peak race form. Sometimes, she runs multiple times a day throughout the year. Coburn’s training group is located in Boulder, Colorado where they enjoy the altitude running. Coburn ran up to 90 miles per week before the Olympic Trials. She was training for the summer racing season at altitude camp. Coburn strength trains as well, including heavy compound lifts such as trap bar deadlifts (where her Instagram account shows she weighed in at 195 pounds), single-leg box jumps, and inverted rows.

Coburn calls on the memories of his tough workouts to help him remember when things get difficult.

She says, “Often, in later stages of races, I am thinking about strong, good workouts that were completed in practice.” “I put my mind into those workouts that I have pushed through.”

5. Your support system is your strength.

You probably know the names of many of her supportive family members if you follow Coburn on social media. Many of them live near Colorado. In fact, back in 2017, a video of her sister Gracie cheering at the television screen as Emma won her first world championship went viral.

Life isn’t all about glory and gold medals. Over the years, this close-knit family has had to deal with its own challenges. Annie Coburn, Coburn’s mother, was diagnosed in December 2019 with stage-four colon carcinoma. This was, Coburn explained to Women’s Running, “the first big thing” that she had to face. Annie was able travel to Eugene to support her daughter at the Olympic Trials, giving Coburn additional support on race day.

“Sharing this with my mom is everything,” she told the Associated Press after the race.

Coburn also cites Joe Bosshard as her greatest coach and husband. They met in high school and began dating after they attended the University of Colorado together.

Following the Rio Olympic Games 2016, where Coburn had won the bronze medal, Bosshard was appointed her coach. She won the 2017 World Championships with Bosshard, despite having made the decision to change coaches.

Coburn states, “My marriage with my husband has helped me improve my brain games because he is honest, he does not let me be the victim to circumstance, he helps me focus on what I can control and reminds me that my destiny is my own.”

What do you think?

Written by Geekybar

Linguist-translator by education. I have been working in the field of advertising journalism for over 10 years.

For over 7 years in journalism. Half of them are as editor. My weakness is doing mini-investigations on new topics.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

Image 1 1

Bethany Lily April dazzles her fans with her low-cut white dress on Instagram

Image 1 2

Lily Adrianne approaches her followers on instagram with her raised green bikini