On Sunday, marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk announced that she is pregnant and expecting a baby girl in January. Tuliamuk, who qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in February, is still planning to compete at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics next summer.
After winning U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials to qualify for her first Olympic team, Tuliamuk’s original plan was to “race the Olympics, and then run the New York City Marathon in November… and then, after that, start a family,” she told NBC Sports’ Nick Zaccardi in an interview last month.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the Olympics being postponed – and the majority of other international marathons in 2020 were cancelled – Tuliamuk, 31, and her partner Tim decided to reassess their own family planning timeline.
“The window we had was very small,” Tuliamuk reflected. “I feel like we made the right choice… It was a risky move, and we didn’t know what was going to happen, but I’m glad we did that.”
So far, Tuliamuk notes that training while pregnant has been “very easy.” She says she ran about 70-80 miles a week until she was about 18 weeks along. In recent weeks, she has decreased her load, running only on the days she feels like it. “When I’m running, I don’t even feel like I’m pregnant,” though she also acknowledges, “I’m slower, of course.”
Throughout her pregnancy, Tuliamuk has sought out the stories of other female athletes who have had families, and then returned to competitive sports. Looking ahead, Tuliamuk says she is looking forward to now being one of these role models.
“I am excited to be able to tell my story to other women,” she explained. “It’s just amazing to know that I am at this point right now where a lot of women can look up to me and they can see the transformation of me going from Aliphine Tuliamuk, an athlete, to Aliphine Tuliamuk, an athlete and also a mom… I feel so honored that they will be able to read my story and hopefully it will be a successful one.”
Tuliamuk also notes that the perception of female athletes giving birth has changed in recent years. “It’s not like in the past where women were told, ‘Well, you can just race until you’re done racing, and then you can start a family.’ No, you can do both of them.”
She is particularly thankful for the support of her sponsor – HOKA – and her NAZ Elite training group. “Everybody has been very supportive, and I am just so grateful because not everybody has the opportunities that I have,” Tuliamuk explained. “I just re-signed my contract for the next four years with NAZ Elite and HOKA so that gives me a peace of mind.”