Like pond water under a microscope, training groups attract members, expand, contract and disperse with great regularity. Over the years, running groups in particular have inspired a lot of activity in cities such as Seattle, Boston, Flagstaff—and now in Boulder.
Recently, 2:25 marathoner Laura Thweatt pulled away from Boulder Track Club and joined a new lady group with steeplechaser Emma Coburn at its nucleus and her husband, Joe Bosshard, as the coach. This six-member, group-without-a-name is notable because it’s all women (okay, some men joined as part of a package deal)—who have already found significant success.
It’s also notable in that the #bossladies, as they hashtag themselves, are the latest of a number of U.S. groups bristling with talented women: Jerry Schumacher’s athletes at Bowerman Track Club, Danny Mackey’s Brooks Beasts, Derek Thompson’s Juventus Track Club in Philadelphia and the small-but-mighty Molly Huddle/Emily Sisson crew coached by Ray Treacy.
You could look at this and say, “The depth and podium-ability of U.S. women is at a historic high. Yay women; the future is female; girrrrrl power!” Or you could look at this development and say, “Look at all those strong, confident, experienced, successful women being coached by somebody’s husband.”
What’s In A Name?
We’ll address the patriarchy later. Right now, let’s agree to be impressed by the combined credibility of Coburn and company, starting with its founder: world champion steeplechaser, two-time Olympian and medalist, and seven-time U.S. national champion, New Balance’s own Coburn.
In the fall of 2016, Coburn abruptly left longtime coach Mark Wetmore (with whom she racked up most of those accolades) before announcing she would be coached by her then-fiancé and former Boulder teammate Joe Bosshard. To date, Coburn has no agent; instead, she lets her 9:02-over-the-barriers in the 3000m do the talking for her.
Fellow steeplechaser Aisha Praught-Leer split from the Oregon Track Club Elite and joined Coburn in Boulder in early 2017. In the last year, the Under Armour athlete won a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (she competes for Jamaica) and is also an Olympic and World Championship finalist. Colorado-raised, mid-distance speedster Kaela Edwards graduated from Oklahoma State having already competed at the Olympics, and she brought her Rio souvenirs and an Adidas sponsorship with her when she joined Coburn’s group.
South African Dominique Scott-Efurd came to the U.S. originally to compete with the Arkansas Razorbacks but liked Fayetteville so much that she stayed after graduating. The Adidas-sponsored athlete has weaponized a 4:07 1500m speed and has found herself competing against the best at five NCAA championships, the Rio Olympics and the 2018 World Indoor Championships. Marching onward, she announced she’d be joining the Boulder gals in April of this year.
Mid-distance queen Cory McGee headed to Florida from Mississippi for college before heading to Boston to run for New Balance under coach Mark Coogan’s leadership. She ultimately joined her fellow colleagues in Boulder and became the fifth woman with wheels. That was just this past fall.
Marathoner (her PB is top 10 for U.S. women in recorded history) and three-time U.S. cross-country champion Thweatt made six. Her race is 26 times longer than that of most others in the group, but Saucony’s Thweatt didn’t so much want to leave the Boulder Track Club, but had to. In the way of training groups, Boulder Track Club is in the dispersing phase, and Thweatt and Coburn were teammates at Colorado. Becoming one of the #bossladies made sense.
Women In The Driver’s Seat
Though young, these women are neither up-and-comers nor hopefuls—they’ve already arrived. They’re seasoned pros with contracts, contacts, hardware, followers, the whole thing. They are indeed boss ladies, bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan. They know their way around a Diamond League meet. Training plan? They could write one in their sleep. So, other than his made-for-hashtags name, why do they need Bosshard?
Ninety-nine percent of professional-level track and field coaches are men, even though approximately 50 percent of the world’s population is women. I have no problem with male coaches as long as they’re respectful of their athletes, and most seem to be doing a good job. But corporate studies have found, that over and over, companies with women in the C-suites outperform those with all-male leadership. Maybe we just don’t know how much better U.S. running could be with women in leadership roles.
Here, I throw the microphone over to Shalane Flanagan, an American record holder and Olympian who, like Coburn, plans to turn to coaching upon retiring from the pros. “I don’t think there are a lot of companies out there recruiting women to these positions,” she told Outside magazine. “It’s not like Nike came to me with this [coaching] job, I created it. I asked them to give it to me. … Maybe more girls will realize that running and coaching are both professions.”
U.S. women are kicking ass and taking names on the track in historic numbers, not only because they are competing and winning but because they’re also gaining experience and confidence. It’s somehow anticlimactic, then, not to put that leadership ability to use. Here’s to hoping we see more #bossladies stepping up in 2019 and beyond.
A version of this article also appears on Women’s Running.