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Aliphine Tuliamuk in Pittsburgh

NAZ Elite's Aliphine Tuliamuk celebrates after winning the 2018 USATF Half Marathon Championships in Pittsburgh in May.

Aliphine Tuliamuk and Stephanie Bruce have a neatly entangled relationship as NAZ Elite teammates.

It's the kind of relationship that's somewhat elusive to the sport of running, and it's been working for the two veterans.

“They are good friends, they respect one another, they have a lot of admiration for one another, and yet on race day they try to beat one another," NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario said Wednesday, "and then afterward they are friends still. It’s a pretty cool situation because they are raising the bar for one another it seems like constantly.”

Tuliamuk and Bruce are set to run the BOLDER Boulder 10K on Memorial Day, and then compete again on Saturday, June 8, when they take on the New York Mini 10K, which serves as this year's USATF national championship at the distance. Both toe the lines of the next couple races on a level of performance that's been demanding attention, with fans and opponents waiting to see what the two will do next.

They have each other to thank for the attention they deserve, whether it be on the big stage such as a championship race in New York City, or a race that's part of their buildup for more major events. 

When Tuliamuk joined NAZ Elite in January of 2018, she brought plenty of past success along with her aggressor mentality that surfaces, according to Rosario, on race day and during practices. Meanwhile, Bruce makes sure she and others are hitting their paces while training, bringing a practical approach to training and racing.

Together, they create a balance and a drive to get better.

Since the two have been teammates, Bruce has won her first-ever national title, claiming the crown in last year's 10K championship in June, and then added another to the list this month when she took gold in the half marathon championship. She's also PRed in just about every major distance since Tuliamuk joined the roster.

Tuliamuk took second place at the 2018 10K national championship race as Bruce prevented her teammate from winning a third straight title and 10th overall.

The racing has always been there for both.

“She’s gotten better at taking risks, taking chances, and I think she’s learned a great deal from Aliphine in that sense," Rosario said. "And Aliphine sees the results Steph has been putting up recently and I think sees the value in the way that Steph trains."

For Rosario, "it's been a treat" to have the dynamic duo on his team.

Tuliamuk recently set a personal best time in the marathon when she crossed the line of Rotterdam in third place with a time of 2:26:50 in April. Within five months of joining the team she won back-to-back national championships in the 25K and half marathon.

“She’s very excited about the present and the future," Rosario said of Tuliamuk, "because every race feels like such a blessing for her. She had an injury in the fall and so she’s so happy to be healthy and racing.”

Bruce just set a PR in the half marathon upon winning the title, clocking a  1:10:44. She also torched her previous best in the 5K just last week when she placed fourth at the USATF Distance Classic in 15:17.76.

Bruce enters BOLDER Boulder and the Mini 10K riding arguably the best run of success of her career. She's also arguably in the best shape of her life.

The last time Bruce ran BOLDER Boulder was in 2017 and she took eighth place in 34:35. Tuliamuk took second place last year at the event with a time of 32:48 while not far removed from her back-to-back national titles.

Tuliamuk is working back from her big marathon performance this time around, whereas Bruce is pushing her peak to new heights. So the two switched places a bit since a year ago around this time.

But BOLDER Boulder plays right into their hands. It's hilly -- much like the Mini 10K will be as it weaves through Central Park -- and is at altitude.

NAZ Elite runners also thrive at the 10K distance. No matter the surface of the race, the 10K is the type of run that requires a number of different skills from a competitor.

“You have to tap into a number of different training zones during the course of a 10K, and we typically work on those different zones throughout the year," Rosario said.

Since training and racing together, Bruce and Tuliamuk now appear to have a new set of skills to tap into as the head into the next few weeks.

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Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at mhartman@azdailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.

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