After marathon labor, Aliphine Tuliamuk will compete at Olympics as a mom

Aliphine Tuliamuk won U.S. Olympic Trials in 2020
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Author’s note: In February 2020, Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s marathon at U.S. Olympic Trials. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed by a year, Tuliamuk and her partner Tim Gannon decided to reassess their own family planning timeline. In December, Tuliamuk announced that she was pregnant and due in January, but still planned to race at the Olympics this summer. With just over 100 days until the start of the Games, On Her Turf caught up with Tuliamuk about the birth of her daughter Zoe and her goals for this summer. 

Just over 32 years ago in Posoy – a tiny village in Kenya’s West Pokot county – Koo Ruto was in her family’s round hut, in labor with her soon-to-be-named daughter: Aliphine Chepkerker Tuliamuk.

As the story goes, “I guess she didn’t want to be around anyone anymore,” Tuliamuk explained in an interview last month. “So she went outside behind the house, and that’s when she gave birth.”

Ruto’s decision to get a little space from her family can be seen in the middle name she gave her daughter: Chepkerker (pronounced chep-ker-ker).

“It means born outside, around the house,” Tuliamuk explained. “In my culture, we don’t name kids until they are born… And usually the middle name is the first name that we give them. It resonates with what time of the day they were born, what place they were born, or what events are happening.”

Marathon labor

Tuliamuk, who announced her pregnancy in December, was induced in January at 38 weeks. “We thought we were going to go in, get induced, and 12 hours later, we would have our daughter. We were so naive,” Tuliamuk laughed.

What followed was childbirth’s equivalent to a marathon: 50 hours of labor.

“I didn’t know where the finish line [was]. And I’m someone who likes to know where the finish line is.”

Tuliamuk says her water broke at 28 hours, but she didn’t dilate until hour 34. “When they said I was four centimeters dilated. I’ve never been happier. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m happy being in pain.’ It was kind of strange.”

Finally, at 4:09 pm on January 13, 2021, Zoe Cherotich Gannon arrived.

While Tuliamuk and her partner Tim Gannon had decided on the first name “Zoe” ahead of their daughter’s birth, Pokot culture influenced their daughter’s middle name.

Because Zoe was born in the late afternoon, they picked “Cherotich” (pronounced cher-oh-teach), which Aliphine describes as “a name given to a child who is born in the evening, when animals are coming back from grazing.”

RELATED: With overseas fans barred from Olympics, new moms ask: what about my baby?

In the weeks following Zoe’s birth, Tuliamuk has adjusted to life as a new mother, and what that means to her own sleep schedule.

“[I] wake up every two hours to feed her, and by the time she’s done, she’s asleep, but [I’m] wide awake,” Tuliamuk explained while breastfeeding Zoe during our interview.

Eight weeks after Zoe’s birth, Tuliamuk returned to training. After her third postpartum run, she reflected in an Instagram post:

“I definitely have to remind myself that my body did an amazing thing… We still have a long way to go to be 100% and train seriously, but right now I feel good enough to continue my buildup slowly.”

If you can see it, you can be it

At last February’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, over 90 percent of the athletes in the women’s event identified as white, while only one percent identified as Black, according to data collected by the NYTimes.

But from the very white field, two Black women emerged victorious. At this summer’s Olympics, Tuliamuk and third-place finisher Sally Kipyego are set to become the first Black women to represent the U.S. in the marathon since the event debuted at the Olympics in 1984.

“I [know] the importance of representation. When I got back from Atlanta, I got a lot of messages from Black girls and Black women,” Tuliamuk explained.

“You cannot aspire to something that you can’t see… There’s a lot of Black girls that probably watch the Olympics, but they watch the 100 meters and the field events, because that is where they see Black athletes. But in the marathon, they’ve never seen a Black person do it [while] representing the U.S. Now that Sally and I are going, hopefully those kids can watch us and start dreaming, too.”

Looking ahead to the Olympics, Tuliamuk says her goal is to “run as hard as I can and produce the highest result that I can.”

But she also knows that her final placement isn’t the only way she can have an impact.

“When I won Olympic Trials, I think a lot of people felt like I wasn’t a complete representation of an American,” Tuliamuk reflected last month. “While I value my Kenyan culture… I also really value being an American… I think I can definitely inspire other immigrants who live here, who have a lot of obstacles to achieving the American dream.”

Now – nearly three months after accomplishing one ‘amazing thing’ – Tuliamuk is three months away from accomplishing another.

“In the future, [my daughter] will be able to look back and say, ‘My mom was able to run a marathon at the Olympics six-and-a-half months after having me.’ And I hope that inspires her… and other little girls and boys, too.”

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Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.