Aliphine Tuliamuk tells Shape over the phone that her victory at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in February 2020 was “a blur” less than two months before she is scheduled to compete in the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6, 2022. She explains, “I still feel like someone else did that.”
The truth of Tuliamuk’s victory is tough to comprehend for reasons other than just her outstanding finish time of two hours, 27 minutes, and 23 seconds. Additionally, she and many others had their final “regular moment” while participating in that marathon before the COVID-19 epidemic changed everything, including her running career. I never really got to enjoy that occasion, she claims. Additionally, Tuliamuk hasn’t completed a marathon since.
In the section that follows, Tuliamuk discusses how she changed her focus from training for the Olympics to becoming a mother during the epidemic and how she regained her footing after giving birth.
BEGINNING A FAMILY Although the pandemic derailed her attempts to reach the Olympics, it did provide her the opportunity to pursue a different goal: starting a family. When the Olympics were postponed, she realized she would have to wait another year and a half to even try to start a family. “I knew that I wanted a family so badly,” she says. I had a lot of trouble understanding that timetable because it seemed so long to me.
Other athletes can only imagine Tuliamuk’s mentality on starting a family based on her running career. Tuliamuk claims that she believes the professional running world today supports athletes starting families more than they did in the past when it was considered “an inconvenience.”
I didn’t want to have to decide between my family and my job. I wished I could accomplish both. — Aliphine Tuliamuk on campaigning for nursing moms to be allowed to bring their kids to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021
She attributes the success of mothers who are athletes to women who came before her, such as Allyson Felix and Kara Goucher. After the 2020 Olympics and the 2020 New York City Marathon were postponed and cancelled, Tuliamuk made the decision to try for a baby. “I feel like they opened the way for me to actually have a very fantastic experience,” she says.
ADAPTING TRAINING WHILE RESULTING FROM A PREGNANCY Being pregnant in the first year of the pandemic presented complications, even though the timing was ideal for her job. Due to COVID-19 safety regulations, she was unable to visit friends, hold a conventional in-person baby shower, or accompany her then-fiance Tim Gannon to doctor’s appointments.
Tuliamuk was training late into her pregnancy on top of that. She admits that there were certainly times when she should have let off but continues to push herself.
After delivering birth, Tuliamuk knew she would have less than seven months until the Tokyo Olympics, which were moved to July 2021. So, she started training again only eight weeks later. She admits, “I definitely couldn’t run right away.” I felt like my body was going to come apart, literally. However, after two months, she was motivated to speed up the pace once more by “that internal pressure” to give her best effort during the Olympics.
Athletes who are also parents should be supported Yet another barrier stood in her way, though. In March 2021, the International Olympic Committee unveiled COVID-19 regulations that would forbid nursing mothers from bringing their infants to the competition. Tuliamuk soon found herself in the middle of a fight to allow herself and other moms to bring their small children to the tournament, a position she claims she was in “by accident.” “All I was doing was what I felt was best for myself and my baby,” the author claims.
Tuliamuk continues, “I didn’t want to stop nursing merely because of my sport. I didn’t want to have to decide between my family and my job. I wished I could accomplish both.
She and other athletes with small children were permitted to bring their children to Tokyo after submitting a passionate letter to the head of the Olympic committee. And it turned out to signify much more than just maintaining parent-child relationships. Everyone was delighted to see infants at the celebrations, especially since the pandemic made so many things seem extremely sad, according to Tuliamuk. She quips that her daughter Zoe “was literally an emotional support baby for everyone.”