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That Moment When Emma Coburn

Beau Grealy

Emma Coburn was just 30 meters behind the runner in front of her, halfway through the 3,000-meter steeplechase finals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. “I thought, Well, fourth in the world is pretty good,” says the 25-year-old, who lives in Boulder, Colorado. “Thirty meters is a huge margin when you’re racing the best women out there.” But then her competitive fire kicked in. Coburn remembers thinking, No, no, no—I have to push and go get her! So she sprinted as hard as she could, lungs heaving, and passed Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech. Coburn kept pace and hung on for four tough laps. The bold move won her the bronze, and she made history as the first American woman to medal in the event. “It was an unbelievable feeling,” says Coburn, whose finish time was also an American record. “I was so proud.” After a year battling an Achilles tendon injury, she’d stepped up when the stakes were highest. “I got the best out of myself and ran my fastest time ever,” she says. “It was the best moment of my career—and probably my life.”

Emma Coburn’s Road To Success:

9:07.63: Coburn’s bronze-medal-winning time, and the third time she broke the American record

3: The maximum number of weeks a year Coburn takes off from training. “It’s nonstop. We rest briefly after a season and get right back to it.”

JOY: “Running is my favorite thing in the world besides the people I love. I wish I could bottle up that feeling of happiness—it’s everything to me.”

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