By Rich Sands, @sands
NEW YORK (31-Oct) -- Aliphine Tuliamuk doesn't do anything slowly. Already one of the top distance runners in the United States, she cemented her status as a bona fide marathoner with a swift 2:26:50 clocking in Rotterdam this past April. Then, after the longest injury layoff of her career, she has made a lightning fast return to fitness and will line up at this Sunday's TCS New York City Marathon on less than 10 weeks of training.
PHOTO: Kellyn Taylor (left) and Aliphine Tuliamuk in Flagstaff, Arizona, where they prepared for the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon (photo courtesy of Hoka Northern Arizona Elite; used with permission)
And when she wasn't able train over the summer, she took up crocheting and got fast at that, too. Initially it was just a hobby to occupy her time during recovery, but soon she was challenging herself to see how quickly she could churn out beanie hats. She's humorously chronicled her obsession on Instagram (@aliphine) and has crocheted more than 150 beanies so far, and has even begun selling her wares online with much success.
"I am the best version of myself when I'm running," the 30-year-old Flagstaff, Arizona, resident admitted during a press conference in Central Park here this morning. "When I'm not running I don't know what to do with myself."
Thankfully, she's running again - though she hasn't given up her nascent cottage industry. "I'm so addicted to it that I will give up my afternoon nap just so I can finish a hat," she said with a laugh.
But the serious business of running is obviously her main focus. With February's USA Olympic Trials race fast approaching, she was eager to test her fitness in New York. "I had to take almost three months off and I thought it was going to take me until the Trials to get back in shape," she says of the femoral stress fracture she suffered in her right leg in late June. She didn't start running again until August 28, and, much to her surprise, her fitness came back quickly. "My body just bounced back so fast that I'm impressed. Right now I am as healthy as I can remember being. I'm knocking on wood."
A native of Kapenguria, Kenya, Tuliamuk came to the United States in 2009 to attend Wichita State University. An 11-time All-American for the Shockers, she was the runner-up at the NCAA outdoor championships over 10,000 meters in 2012. In 2016 she became a U.S. citizen and wore the Team USA jersey for the first time at the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, finishing 15th.
She has shown her pride in her adopted home by racking up nine USA Track & Field road and cross country championships in under four years, at distances ranging from 5-K to 25-K. "I come from a family of 32 siblings and if I [stayed] in Kenya I wouldn't have been able to afford a college education," she says. "And to be here and get my college paid for, almost for free, it means a lot to me. I've had so many opportunities here and my only way to show gratitude for what this country has given me is to run these national championships."
She joined the Hoka Northern Arizona Elite group in Flagstaff in early 2018 and trains under coach Ben Rosario alongside fellow sub-2:28 marathoners Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor, two other top contenders heading into the Olympic Trials. "It's fun to be able to train with people who are at the same level and to be able to push each other in practices and races," says Taylor, who is also racing on Sunday, of the camaraderie. "Some days I have it, some days they have it. On a day when somebody doesn't have it, it's nice to be able to pull them along, because you know it's going to come around and you're going to be the one who's having the help at one point."
With her impressive run in Rotterdam, Tuliamuk is currently the 17th fastest American women of all-time on a record-eligible course. But while she would love to qualify for the Olympics, she refuses to get too far ahead of herself with expectations. "The U.S. team is going to be strong," she says. "I want to focus on one thing at a time. Right now Iím just focusing on New York and after that I'll focus on the Trials. But for anyone to make that team you have to have a really good day."
And as for New York, she approaches Sunday's starting line with impressive credentials in the city at shorter distances, finishing on the podium at the NYRR New York Mini 10-K three straight years between 2016 and 2018. Her previous attempt at the NYC Marathon, however, was a disappointing 13th place finish in 2017, when she clocked 2:33:18. "I'm in a good spot," she says of her prospects to improve on that result. "I have a plan, not a time-specific plan, but I'm just going to go out and run my own race and put myself in a situation where in the last few miles I can do well."