Aliphine Tuliamuk, pro runner with NAZ elite and first-time mom, is part of our Spring 2022 360 YOU program. Our focus for the second edition of this members-only program, led by TrackClubBabe, is how to unlock your potential. Tuliamuk will share her thoughts on her career choice and will allow us a sneak peek into how she plans a race season alongside real life. We caught up with her in between races for her first 360 YOU entry.
Though a veteran of the sport, there is a lot Aliphine Tuliamuk, 33, has learned about training and her body in the nearly two years since getting pregnant and giving birth to her daughter, Zoe, in January 2021.
It hasn’t been an easy recovery for her, but she had a successful showing at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 1, finishing in second place in 1:09:54. That time is only 5 seconds off of her PR of 1:09:49. Tuliamuk came into the race hoping she would win, but realized she is still in a strong place with room to grow.
“After my injuries, you know, coming back from a baby and having an injury—and then I had a concussion in February, which kind of took me out for a week. I haven’t really had a lot of time, I had only trained for eight weeks in the grand scheme of things,” she says.
She’s raced several times since giving birth, including a 10K in Atlanta last summer and the Olympic marathon in Tokyo, where she eventually had to drop out due to a hip injury. “At the Olympics, I was in so much pain. I wasn’t really able to get anything out of myself,” she says.
The hip pain was still bothering her in September when she announced she would not be running the New York City Marathon in November.
In retrospect, giving birth was harder on her body than she imagined—not that she expected it to be easy. But that is something she likely has in common with many women entering into that unfathomable chapter for themselves. You just don’t know until you do it. “It’s unlike anything else,” says Tuliamuk.
She didn’t know, for example, that she’d have a very specific hormone working against her. “It wasn’t until I got my injury that I realized I [was] still producing relaxin,” she says. Relaxin is a hormone that is elevated in women during pregnancy and can linger postpartum through breastfeeding. Relaxin plays a lot of important roles during pregnancy, including regulating the cardiovascular and renal system of the mother, but it also causes your ligaments and joints to relax in preparation for birth.
That hormone wasn’t doing her any favors in training for elite competition. “If you try to log 100 miles on joints that are not stable, you’re gonna get injured one way or the other, because your body is compensating,” she says.
After the Olympics, she took time off to let her body heal and embraced a slower pace that she has come to treasure. “We don’t really get time to slow down and just to live in the moment,” says Tuliamuk. “Your baby, being that young, he or she is going to be that young only one time. Enjoy that moment.”
Allowing herself to just be a mom and to spend time with her family helped her be at peace with the recovery process, and being back to competition is even sweeter now. The week leading up to the Pittsburgh Half she was nervous about how her body would hold up. But it held.
“This was the first time that I really felt like myself and I felt like I was running strong,” says Tuliamuk. “I was in control for a lot of the time. And even when I was in pain, I was still able to manage it and love being in the pain.”
And although she wanted to win in Pittsburgh, she has a feeling there are big things ahead for her, pointing to some fast training sessions she has had in this build up, with fitness left to gain.
“I think that there’s something to be said about having a child and then returning to competition and training. I think that in a way, it makes you faster,” says Tuliamuk.
What has not changed for her in motherhood: Her drive and ambition. Only now she has an added push for every race she runs. She’s not only trying to make a living as a professional runner for herself anymore, “I’m actually trying to build a future for my daughter,” she says.
Being a working mom, Tuliamuk has to spend time away from her daughter. But that also pushes her to make the most out of her training sessions or while traveling for a race, and being present with her when she is home. “I want to make sure the sacrifices I am making will be worth it,” she says.
Like this upcoming weekend, where she will compete in the 25K Road Championships on May 14 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Every race that I can go to and embrace fiercely and get the most out of myself and whatever the reward is for that day, is an investment to my daughter’s future.”