2024 US Olympic Trials Marathon

Mother's On Racing U.S. Trials: 'I'm Allowed to Dream That Dream Again.'

Mother's On Racing U.S. Trials: 'I'm Allowed to Dream That Dream Again.'

Women with shared experiences all vouch for the opportunity in front of them: Mothers can do anything they set their mind to.

Feb 2, 2024 by Cory Mull
Mother's On Racing U.S. Trials: 'I'm Allowed to Dream That Dream Again.'

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The question was posed to the three women on stage with shared experience. 

All mothers. 

Were we in a new era of the sport and the women's marathon, with women empowered to raise families and compete? 

The significance was not lost on that fact that three out of the top five contenders in the women's U.S. Olympic Trials marathon on Saturday in Orlando, Florida were all mothers and had some point taken a hiatus from the sport to give birth, only to reemerge.  

There was Keira D'Amato, the 39-year-old from Richmond, Virginia and mother of two who spent nine years away from the sport, only to reappear in 2017 before setting an American marathon record in 2022; 34-year-old Aliphine Tuliamuk, who used a delay in the Olympic marathon in 2021 to give birth to her first child; and finally 35-year-old Betsy Saina, who gained U.S. citizenship in 2021 and then gave birth to a child shortly thereafter in December. 

D'Amato's rise to the cream of the women's marathon crop was particularly spectacular, considering she was all but done with the sport in 2008 after ankle surgery all but finished her career and made her a self-proclaimed "hobby jogger." 

Fifteen years later -- after a marathon debut of 3:14:54 in 2017 -- she has an opportunity to claim her first Olympic marathon spot.

What preceded it is pretty remarkable. In 2020, she was 15th at the Trials. Then in 2022 and 2023, she qualified for consecutive World Championship appearances at the distance, finishing eighth and 17th.

In 2022, she set an American record in the marathon in a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds, breaking Deena Kastor's old mark, only for it to be bested by Emily Sisson, another contender on Saturday, that same year. 

This past July, D'Amato set a half marathon record of 1:06:37 in the Asics Half Marathon on the Gold Coast of Australia. Saturday might mark D'Amato's last shot at reaching the Olympics. 

"I quit for awhile and gave up on the dream," D'Amato said on Friday in a pre-race press conference held in the media area adjacent to the finish line on Saturday. "I didn't have the confidence or belief that this would be something within my reach. It was after having family and having kids and feeling stronger than I ever have, that I had the support and the confidence and then the unconditional love to risk big and see what it becomes.

"So really, it's been within the last four to seven years coming back that I've been allow to dream that dream again." 

Tuliamuk added to that, saying that she felt the sport used to be judgmental of women with children. 

It was only after pioneers like Allyson Felix and Kara Goucher -- who spoke up in support of women giving birth while still within their contracts -- that conversations around childbirth were becoming more acceptable and companies were changing language around performance-based contracts. 

The Flagstaff-based Tuliamuk, who returns to the Trials after having won in 2020, said she was thankful for her sponsor, HOKA, who has been there for her through it all. She's run two marathon personal bests in consecutive years, first at New York in 2022 and then in Boston in 2023.

"It's taken women before us," she said, "speaking out about this. How they came back as moms, they were stronger." 

The defending U.S. Marathon Trials champion from Atlanta gave birth to her daughter in 2021 and competed in the Olympic marathon within that same year. 

"We can now see that being a mom is a strength," she said. "It's not a weakness." 

Saina, who was fifth this year in the Tokyo Marathon in 2:21.40, gave birth in 2021 to a healthy son, Kalya, and has resided in Kenya during that time. The perception around women with children, she said, is that they should not run. She wants to change that idea. 

"Being a mom, it's been one of the biggest things I've appreciated," she said.  

Some of the women's marathon's top contenders -- like Sara Hall and Sara Vaughn -- are also mothers. 

On Saturday, with their families watching on, these athletes say they will pursue their dreams with full confidence. 

To some, particularly D'Amato, that opportunity was realized once she understood that being a mother did not limit her ability to dream big. 

"I do believe that being a mother has made me a better runner and being a runner has made me a better mother." 



Date: Saturday, February 3

When: 10:20 a.m. EST

Where: Orlando, Florida (3x loops at 8-miles, 1x loop at 2.2 miles)

How To Watch: Live on Peacock



Oldest Qualifiers Entered

Women: Dot McMahan, 47, Oakland Township, MI, 2:35:22

Youngest Qualifiers Entered

Women: Ava Nuttall, 22, Oxford, OH, 2:35:09

Entrants Who Have Qualified For Most Trials

Desiree Lindon and Dot McMahan -- 5 times

State With The Most Women Entered

Colorado: 31

Total Women Qualified: 173

Entrants: 165