Spring 2014

Model Runner

Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton in her native Kenya
Pro runner Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton '13 points out Kenya's stunning landscape during a November 2013 visit home. The first young woman in her community to graduate from a four-year college, it's important, she says, to be a role model for girls in her home village.

Still winded and dripping with sweat, Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton '13 was nonetheless as open and engaging as ever while she held court with reporters after a race in Flint, Mich., last summer. She explained how a pack of five runners was in contention at the halfway mark before she overcame fatigue and used a late push to win – all standard fare from a runner who just finished a tough race.

Then came the unexpected line, delivered with such surprising casualness that the reporters were compelled to pause and double check what they had just heard: "By the way, this was my first 10 mile ever." First 10 mile? Ever?

That's what the lady said.

For the record, Tuliamuk-Bolton won the HealthPlus Crim Festival of Races in 54 minutes, 28 seconds – 18 seconds faster than the second-place finisher in the women's division – in late August 2013, only two months after she graduated from WSU. Not only was it her first 10 mile, but it was also her debut in professional road racing after a prestigious, record-breaking career as a Shocker. Two months later, in her second race as a pro, she won the Prairie Fire Wichita Half-Marathon in 1:14.35 by nine seconds, recording the fastest time in Kansas history for that distance.

So Tuliamuk-Bolton's remarkable story – young girl grows up in a poor village in west Kenya and earns a scholarship to America, where she excels in school and becomes an All-American runner – continues to captivate. "Sometimes I don't realize how much I've accomplished," she says, "and then I sit down and tell people and they just say, ‘It's amazing.'"

Tuliamuk-Bolton, 25, has fond memories of WSU, where, among other accomplishments, she set four Missouri Valley Conference records, made six All-MVC teams and earned the MVC Women's Most Valuable Athlete in 2013. "I had a wonderful time," she says. "I want all the student-athletes at WSU to work hard and appreciate what they have. I miss all my coaches spoiling me. I miss all my teammates. It goes by so fast."

Speaking from Santa Fe, N.M., where she trains, she says the world of pro road racing is competitive, challenging and stressful. The stakes are high – probably surprisingly so for those who don't follow the sport closely. In May, running in soggy conditions in Central Park in New York City, she placed sixth in the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K with a self-described "very decent" 32:37. The winner of the talented field, fellow Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui, was exactly 1.5 minutes faster and won $25,000.

"I ran in college, but it wasn't my job," Tuliamuk-Bolton says. "Now, I am running against girls who have world records, big-name women, in every race. It freaks you out running with those people. What I did in college doesn't really matter now. I have to push myself harder."

While running about 90 miles a week in Santa Fe, Tuliamuk-Bolton dreams of earning a shoe contract, of developing into a marathoner and, ultimately, of running in the 2016 Olympic games. "There is nothing else I love more than running," she says. "I have to run."

Evidenced by her success in college and in her early pro career, she clearly runs to win, but she says there's a deeper purpose. In her tiny hometown village, located near Kapenguria, she is looked up to and even adored. She returned home in November 2013 and was greeted with a hero's welcome. A video on her Facebook page shows the outgoing Tuliamuk-Bolton as she makes her way down a lengthy receiving line, offering hugs and greetings to friends and family. 

She is shown such respect and love because of her athletic success in a country known for its history of dominant distance runners, but also because of her academic accomplishments. She was a three-time All-MVC scholar athlete, earned a 4.0 GPA her senior year and graduated with a degree in health services management. "In my community," she says, "all we knew growing up was to be a hard-working woman and then you get married. In my village, I was the first girl to go to a four-year college. The first girl to graduate from a four-year college. Girls in my village don't even think about education because they don't have any role models. Looking back, I overcame so many obstacles, and it's important for me to be that role model for them."


Helping Create Thriving Communities

The Center for Community Support and Research's executive director Scott Wituk '96/99/01 has worked 13 years as the center's research coordinator and has more than 25 peer-reviewed publications.

A Midwestern Poet in Kentucky

Jeff Worley '71/75 has always loved words.

In the Garden

Standout Shocker Toure' Murry has successfully made the jump from playing at home in the Roundhouse to playing at home in Madison Square Garden.

Model Runner

Pro runner Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton '13, is the first young woman in her community to graduate from a four-year college.