Many didn’t expect her to win, but she did. Aliphine Tuliamuk’s remarkable win at the US Olympic Trials isn’t as surprising when you look at all she did to get to that starting line.
To many it may have seemed that Aliphine Tuliamuk’s victory at the 2020 US Olympic Trials was a complete surprise, but if you knew her, you knew she was right where she should be. She won the trials, to earn top spot for the U.S. Olympic team with a personal record and well under the Olympic standard with a time of 2:27: 23. Though the past two years have been plagued with injury, Aliphine’s career and training led her to this moment. Her personal bests include: 5,000m – 15:18.86 (2013), 10,000m – 31:54.20 (2016), Half Marathon – 1:09:49 (2015 and 2020).
Tuliamuk was born in Kenya, and grew up in a family of thirty-one children, where her dad had four wives. As a child she endured losing two of her brothers, and witnessed much suffering around her due to inadequate access to healthcare. Running was a dream, but competing seemed out of reach.
One day, Kenyan marathoner Tegla Loroupe happened to visit Tuliamuk's school. In Tuliamuk's remote village, running was a regular part of life. Tuliamuk would run to school, and to get water. She enjoyed it and dreamed of running competitively like Loroupe, but competing seemed out of reach until Loroupe, the current marathon world record-holder who came to speak and hand out gear to Tuliamuk's class, gave Aliphine a pair of shoes.
Those shoes changed the direction of Tuliamuk’s life. These shoes enabled her to compete in a local 10k and eventually move on to the national championship where she placed second. With this distinction, she received more support for training, and chasing her dream. After high school, Tuliamuk was recruited to run for Iowa State, and later transferred to Wichita, Kansas where she would major in public health. Her studies were a passion borne out of childhood in Kenya
Post collegiately, Tuliamuk saw some success, but was also not seeing the results she wanted in races. She placed a 'disappointing' 13th in the 2017 New York City marathon and questioned whether she'd ever figure out the marathon distance. But she kept showing up to practice.
Aliphine became an American citizen in 2016, the same year she won the USA Track & Field 25K, 5K, and 20K titles. In 2017 she further improved her performance from the year before by winning three USATF titles: the 25K, 10K and 7 miles and placing first at the USA Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon. In 2018 she won her 3rd 25K in a row.
Aliphine currently trains with Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite in Flagstaff with Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor. The trio train together, pushing and motivating each other to the results like we saw at the Olympic Trials marathon in Atlanta.
One of the unique things about NAZ Elite is their transparency. This is great for the sport and gives us the inside scoop on what Aliphine did to get to this moment. Take a look at her workouts a month out from the Trials:
Lactate Threshold - 5 x 2 miles + 8 x 30/45
Lake Mary. 5 x 2 miles at 5:30 pace with 1/2 mile jog recovery (including the final repeat). Then straight into 8 x 30 seconds fast, 45 seconds easy.
3up and 2down.
Run - Long Run - Tempo/Long/Tempo
Lake Mary. 4mi Tempo/10 miles/4mi Tempo
Mile Marks= 0-4, 4-9 and 9-4, 4-0.
4 miles at 5:40
10 miles at 6:30 with miles 3, 6, and 9 at 5:40.
4 miles at 5:40
2up and 2down.
These two killer workouts were part of a 110+ mile week. Most of her miles outside of these workouts were easy. Those big workouts matter, those easy miles matter. Aliphine put in the work to get her to that starting line ready to perform and to break the tape in Atlanta.
Beyond running, Aliphine knew she wanted to use her opportunity in the U.S. to help those at home in Kenya. She has worked as a caregiver and also wants to pursue her masters in healthcare to hopefully create a foundation and open a free clinic in Kenya. She also makes hats that she sells to help support her family and community. Aliphine Tuliamuk is an incredible human, and athlete. The best part: she’s just getting started.