Aliphine Tuliamuk won the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic by nearly two minutes and always find ways to give back to others

Aliphine Tuliamuk has an enviable social conscience that extends well beyond road races.

That benevolence was on display in Sunday’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.

After winning the women’s half-marathon in 1:12:29, nearly two minutes ahead of her closest female competitor, Tuliamuk had a medal placed around her neck.

It did not stay there for long.

Tuliamuk, 29, handed the medal to a young girl as an inspirational keepsake.

“It’s all about giving back,” Tuliamuk said.

The Kenyan native was on the receiving end of such kindness 18 years ago. She qualified for her first competitive 10,000-meter race but did not have any shoes.

Tegla Loroupe, the first African to win the New York City Marathon, took care of the problem by handing Tuliamuk a new pair of running sneakers.

The footwear allowed Tuliamuk, who has 32 siblings, to become a distance running specialist. She became so good that she was offered a scholarship to Iowa State. College offered a way out from the difficulties Tuliamuk faced in her village in western Kenya, a place with no roads and few vehicles.

After attending Iowa State for two years (2010-11), Tuliamuk transferred to Wichita State. She was a nine-time All-American in cross country and track and field. Tuliamuk also got her bachelor’s degree in public health, becoming the first from her village to graduate from college.

The ultimate goal for Tuliamuk is to be a nurse to help out back home. She has put that profession on hold to pursue her career as a distance runner.

posted Monday February 25th