“The day that Kobe Bryant passed away, something snapped in me. I realized how short life can be—and I never met him, and I didn’t even know him much, but the things that people were writing about him, there was just something that made me snap out of it. I realized that I hadn’t seen my family for over 3 years. Why had I not seen them? I had not seen them because I was making excuses that I was working very hard to make the Olympic team, but I don’t think I had my mind and heart in it. In that moment, I realized that I was wasting time and making excuses and not really taking advantage of the opportunity that I had, and in that moment, I decided that I was going to fully commit to making the team. So that was seriously the day that I recommitted myself to making the team and believing that I was going to make it.”
Aliphine Tuliamuk recently won the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta to qualify for her first Olympic team. She ran away from Molly Seidel in the last two miles of the race to break the tape in 2:27:23 and fulfill her American dream.
The 30-year-old is a native of Kenya and became a U.S. citizen in 2016. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and trains with HOKA Northern Arizona Elite under coach Ben Rosario. Aliphine is a graduate of Wichita State University, where she was 14-time All-American and earned a degree in public health. She’s a now a ten-time national champion as well as a two-time guest on this podcast, initially appearing back on Episode 15, which you should go listen to if you missed it the first time around.
This conversation was mostly focused on the Olympic Trials, how the battle actually played out versus how Aliphine thought it would go, and what life has been like for her in the days since winning the race. We talked about Aliphine’s Olympic dream and developing a renewed sense of appreciation for the opportunities she’s been presented in life. Aliphine told me about the impact that Kobe Bryant’s death had on her mindset heading into the Olympic Trials, why she was uncharacteristically nervous in the days before the race, what the final stretch of the race was like for her when she realized she was going to make the team, how she will use her elevated platform to inspire more people moving forward, and a lot more.
“You have to look at it like a business. What do you want the culture of your team to be? Focus on that and make sure that the people you’re working with are bought into what you’re doing. Because I’m telling you right now, you could raise Bill Bowerman from the dead and he could write your schedule, but if you don’t have the people that you’re working with believing in you, and believing in each other, and believing in what they’re doing, it’s not going to work.”
It was a blast to sit down with Ben Rosario, the founder and head coach of HOKA Northern Arizona Elite, for this week’s episode of the podcast.
The 38-year-old Rosario, who started the team in 2014, has had a long and varied career in the running industry. As an athlete, he ran for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, qualified for two U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and finished second at the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2005. He moved back to his hometown of St. Louis that earlier that year, where he first worked as the special events director for that city’s marathon, and then went on to co-found Big River Running Company. After selling his share of the business in early 2012 and moving to Flagstaff shortly thereafter, Rosario worked as the marketing director for McMillan Running and also did some work as an elite athlete coordinator and race director back in his hometown of St. Louis. Through it all, Rosario has coached other runners at all levels, leading him to his current role with HOKA NAZ Elite, “a professional sports team whose mission is to recruit, develop and produce distance runners to compete at the very highest level of international athletics.”
We covered a lot of bases over the course of this conversation: Rosario’s career path, and the route he took to get where he is today; how he got into coaching and the influence different coaches have had on his own development as an athlete, coach, and person; what race weekend looks like for him when he’s got athletes competing; the origins of NAZ Elite and how he sees the group evolving in the coming years; how he measures his team’s impact beyond race results; what NAZ Elite is doing to make themselves relatable to average runners; the benefits of group training for all levels of runners; the importance of rest and recovery after a marathon and what that looks like for his athletes; how he furthers his own education as a coach and his advice for young coaches; what’s exciting him about the sport right now, and a lot more.
I’ve never been a person to think that just because someone has a better PR than me that they’re going to beat me. I think that it’s important to have belief in yourself and your capabilities. You have to believe that you’re going to do something great before it actually happens.
Thrilled to have Kellyn Taylor join me on the podcast this week. The 31-year-old mom, who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., as a member of coach Ben Rosario’s HOKA Northern Arizona Elite squad, ran a 2:24:28 at Grandma’s Marathon on June 16. It was a four-minute personal best, two-minute course record, and the seventh-fastest marathon ever run by an American woman.
“When I’m dealing with pressure from racing and stuff, I just tell myself, “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.” When I was growing up, or I started running, I never thought that I would be the person that I am today. I never thought that I would be living in America, that I would be an independent woman doing my own thing. I have an opportunity that not a lot of people have—like not even my role models when I was in Kenya, they don’t have the opportunities that I have here. And so when I have that pressure, I just tell myself that I am in a better place and I don’t want to complain because this is not going to last forever and so I try to just enjoy the process.”
All she does is win, win, win, no matter what. Super excited to welcome nine-time U.S. national champion Aliphine Tuliamuk to the podcast. Tuliamuk went wire-to-wire to win the U.S. half-marathon championship in Pittsburgh on May 6 and followed that up less than a week later with her third-straight U.S. 25K title in Grand Rapids on May 12.
The 29-year-old Tuliamuk, a native of Kenya who became a U.S. citizen in 2016, lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and trains with coach Ben Rosario’s HOKA Northern Arizona Elite squad. She’s a graduate of Wichita State University, where she was 14-time All-American and earned a degree in public health.
“That understanding—that you have to create your own value—is something that was weird to me at first, because I thought that I had value, but I didn’t. I was a 28:40 [10K] guy out of college, and had been All-American a few times, but there’s like 40 guys who do that every single year, so why would anyone take an extra interest in me? So that would be my advice to anyone who is trying to be a professional runner: really sit down and really think about where your niche is, and look at people who have created their own niches…because there are only so many spots on an Olympic team or a world team or a podium, you know?”
Burrito connoisseur and 2:12 marathoner Scott Fauble comes on the podcast to discuss the movement he’s trying to create around his favorite food (1:20), the business of being a professional runner (9:00), the launch of a new project he’s calling “Off Course” and the parallels between running and writing (25:45), training for, racing, and recovering from his first marathon (39:35), and so much more. (more…)