For Aliphine Tuliamuk, the decision to run in the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon was a no-brainer. The 33-year-old ran the event back in 2019, finishing 12th, and she never thought it would take three years before a return trip to Staten Island’s start line.
“It was not even, you know, a matter of if – it was just when can I get to New York? So, it was not even a decision. Easy,” explains the Kenyan-born American long-distance runner, who made a name for herself in February 2020 when she won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
But the Covid-19 pandemic hit immediately after her Trials win, postponing the Olympics and canceling that year’s edition of the NYC Marathon. During the forced hiatus, she started a family with partner – now husband – Tim Gannon, welcoming daughter Zoe in January 2021. Injury struck later that year while she was training for the postponed Tokyo Olympics, and Tuliamuk withdrew about 20k into her Olympic debut with severe hip pain and hasn’t competed in a marathon since.
Her return to marathon competition has Tuliamuk fired up, both literally and figuratively.
“I’m faster than I’ve ever been before,” she recently told On Her Turf. “And it kind of makes me excited and nervous to see what (the) New York City Marathon brings, because this is going to be the first time I am actually going to complete a marathon since the 2020 Olympic Trials. That’s like, almost three years. So it’s going to be super exciting.”
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Tuliamuk won’t have to wait until November, however, to enjoy a visit to the Big Apple. She’ll lace up her sneakers this Saturday, Aug. 13, as a “running buddy” to the young women who participate in the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Run for the Future program. The free, seven-week program introduces 11th- and 12-grade female high schoolers to the sport of running and culminates with this weekend’s NYRR Percy Sutton Harlem 5K.
“Running transformed my life into the life that I have today,” she explains. “I mean, without running I wouldn’t be where I am today. And to know that these girls did not have running experience before, they knew nothing about running, and then they were able to get into running through New York Road Runner feeder program, and now they will be graduating, and I get to run with them? I think that’s just incredible.”
The opportunity comes with an extra layer of “grateful” after Tuliamuk’s most recent injury. She sustained a concussion in February after slipping while training in icy, snowy conditions. She also suffered headaches and temporary memory loss, both of which subsided after about a week but left a lasting impression.
“It just gives you a perspective that like your life could literally, in a second, just turn and be something else,” she says. “This is just me being dramatic, but I could have forgotten completely. And the life that I had would have been something like a past life. I think after that, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to try to live life to the fullest.’ I’m going try to be present as much as I can, because you just never know.”
On Her Turf editor Alex Azzi contributed to this report.