It’s not enough for Emma Kosciak to be fast. She wants everyone around her to be fast too.
This attitude isn’t always common on the running scene, where second place is often viewed as the first loser. Even more surprising is to hear this attitude coming from a Boston native, who typically take their running pretty seriously.
Kosciak admits that part of her desire to pull other runners up with her is selfish – she wants other people to run with. She recently moved from Boston to Texas, where the running scene isn't as big.
“It’s been an interesting transition for me,” said Kosciak. “Houston has a robust running scene but Boston had a huge running scene. The workouts that are standard in Boston weren’t as common in Houston. I had to try a few clubs before I found one that matched my personality.”
But most of what Kosciak is doing is a labor of love. In the year that Kosciak has been in Houston, she has organized a Thursday night fun run that starts and ends at a local brewery. She joins a local club for a Tuesday night track workout, and she organizes Saturday long runs.
“I’m an incredibly social runner,” said Kosciak, who says that the transition from working in an office to working at home has made her appreciate the social aspect of running even more.
“I meet a lot of runners who don’t see their own potential. It’s great to say, ‘Hey, you’re fun to hang out with and you’re faster than you think you are so let’s stick together and get better.’”
If this sounds a bit like Shalane Flanigan's approach that’s because it is. Kosciak gets her philosophy from her coach at Endurance Underground, who subscribes to the theory that if you boost those around you, you’re going to launch yourself forward too.
“Shalane isn’t just great – she makes everyone around her great too,” says Kosciak. “I love that women’s running is heading in this direction. Maybe it’s always been going in this direction, but today’s best women runners are pulling each other up and the whole sport is going to be better because of it. My coach is always telling us to 'Run as One' and that's what it's all about.”
Currently, Kosciak is training for a marathon in January. She was extremely successful in her first XTERRA season, where she was the XTERRA Texas Regional Champ. In February, Kosciak won the XTERRA Pedernales 25K Trail Run by 20 minutes and in April she won the XTERRA ATX 21K Trail Run. She continued her winning streak by breaking the tape at the XTERRA Muleshoe 21K Trail Run.
She decided to press her luck and signed up for the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, kind of on a whim.
“I wasn’t expecting to get a bid to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship,” said Kosciak about her ninth-place finish in September at the 21K race in Snowbasin, Utah.
“I went into XTERRA Nationals just to have fun and be in Utah. I wasn’t expecting to be in the top ten. I mean, I live in Houston where it’s flat, not technical, and at sea level. Then I was like, oh hey, look at that. I can’t not go to Worlds now.”
Kosciak maintains a high volume of running and does a fair bit of speed work, so there is no doubt she is fit. But is she fit enough for the course at Kualoa Ranch?
“I’m nervous about running the hills and technical terrain at Kualoa Ranch because I can’t access that kind of terrain in Houston,” Kosciak admits. “But I just have to be smart about it. I won’t take crazy risks. I’m not going to get injured. And I’m going to stop at least once.”
“I’ve never run on a trail and not stopped,” says Kosciak. “Part of why you are out there is for the experience. At Utah, I stopped at the overlooks and just took it all in. I’ve never been to Hawaii. I can’t wait to stop and see what it’s like at the top of the mountain.”
Kosciak may be running with someone else at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. And if she is, we suspect she will be encouraging them every step of the way.