Alice Saunders is a runner, designer and founder at Forestbound (if you don't know her work, go check it out immediately), dog mama, Jasyoga subscriber and New Englander lining up for the Boston Marathon this Monday. We were lucky enough to catch up with her to talk training, yoga and more.
Thanks so much for chatting with me! I know you’re one busy woman!
You’re running Boston this coming Monday! What # marathon is this for you?
This will be my 4th marathon and first Boston!
Where did you snag the BQ?
I BQed for the first time at Eugene in 2013 (I ran a 3:29) which was my second marathon and my first time attempting a BQ. But then during the first few weeks of training for Boston 2014 I ended up with an awful IT Band injury that required a lot of patience and PT to come back from, and I just couldn’t do it. I was going through a soul crushing break up at the time and my dad was very, very sick - so I just didn’t have to strength to recover from the injury and I dropped out of Boston.
I ended up taking quite a bit of time off from running during 2014. It was one of those years.. the kind where absolutely everything went wrong. And then my dad passed away in October of 2014. In December of 2014 I started training for the Vermont City Marathon as a way to bring some structure back into my life and help me grieve, but also because I wanted that BQ again.
I ran Vermont City in May of 2015 with an official time of 3:20 (and my trusty Garmin time of 3:19 - this will forever drive me crazy!).
We say, always go with the Garmin... unless it's slower.
How are you feeling about race day? Ready? Excited to line up?
I am feeling ready! Part of me still can’t believe it’s actually happening, that I’m actually running Boston. But I am as ready as I’ll ever be.
Sounds like the weather will be steamy! As a New Englander, you’re obviously tough and ready for anything, how do you feel about the forecast?
This winter and early spring in Massachusetts has been so strange. We had a relatively mild winter, but then had record cold days in February, 75 degrees in March, and freak snowstorms in April. But I’ve been out there training through all of it, so I feel prepared for whatever nature throws at us on Monday. I am trying not to get too settled on the forecast because it will most likely change by Monday, but I am focusing on being fully hydrated going into race day because it does look like it’ll be on the warmer side.
You started running for your dad, I’m so moved by your story would you mind sharing a bit more with our readers?
Growing up I was the furthest thing from a runner that you could imagine. I have always been strong, and could hit a home run during softballs games quite easily, but had zero interest in running. During high school and college exercise just wasn’t something I did. I worked on organic farms and enjoyed physical work, but could not run a mile if I tried.
But my dad was a runner. He ran 5 miles every week day with the same group of guys that met at the local YMCA in Concord, NH during their lunch hour. Running was such a huge part of his identity and he loved the community aspect of it the most. I feel like he was out running a different 5K every Saturday morning in support of various local charities and businesses.
And then in 2009 he was diagnosed with dementia. It was around this time that I started running, and at the time it wasn’t even a conscious decision, it just happened. I ran and thought about my dad and what it meant that he had a terminal brain disease. Slowly, he lost the ability to run like he used to. As his running slowed down, mine got faster and farther. I wanted to run for both of us.
At the end of 2010 I had been running for a little under a year, had lost 35lbs, and had finally started to enjoy it. I ran the first race of my life in early spring of 2011 - the More Magazine Women’s Half in Central Park, NYC. Before that day I hadn’t run more than 8 miles at a time and had no clue (or concern) about what pace I ran. Crossing the finish line of that race in 1:45 was an ‘ah ha’ moment in my life - turns out I loved racing!
I ran the Providence marathon in 2012 with my brother and a handful of our friends as a way to raise money for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Fundraising for this race was one of the ways that we shared my dad’s dementia diagnosis with the community, and so that’s what this particular marathon was all about. I had no pace or goal in mind, instead just wanted to run in honor of my dad. My dad was waiting for us at the finish line of that race and jumped in to run the last few yards with my brother - it was one of the most magical moments I’ll ever experience in life.
I finished Providence in 3:49 and felt all of those powerful emotions that come with running 26.2. Just two years before I could hardly run a mile, and here I was conquering 26.2 surrounded by friends and family, all in honor of my dad. It changed my life.
Your dad’s diagnosis inspired Long May They Run apparel and community; tell us more about the inspiration and collection.
Running isn’t easy, especially when you start later in life with very little fitness base. During the first year there were so many times when I felt physically awful - burning lungs, sore calves - and just wanted to quit. But then I would think about my dad, and would think about the kind of suffering he was experiencing - he had just been diagnosed with an incurable brain disease and in a matter of years it would rob him of the life and the fitness he had worked so hard for. And that’s what kept me pushing through all the hard runs that first year. My body was completely healthy, how could I not embrace that?
As my dad’s health declined, I pushed my healthy body harder. I could now run faster and farther than I ever imagined, and this newly discovered strength helped me get through the darkest of days. Through running in honor of my dad I uncovered my true inner strength, and this was how I coped with his disease and his eventual death.
Fundraising for the AFTD brought positivity and community into my life during this dark time. I loved being able to raise money for an organization fighting the disease my dad was suffering from, and I loved that it gave me a way to talk about his illness with my friends and community. But I didn’t want to keep asking the same people to donate money every time I ran a race, so I decided to start a more sustainable fundraising project. That’s how Long May They Run was born.
Long May They Run is my charity project all about using our healthy bodies while we still can. There are so many people who have lost the ability to run, and I hope to motivate people to get out there and use their able bodies in honor of those who no longer can. All of the profits I make through sales of the gear are donated to the AFTD in memory of my dad.
I can imagine how busy you are as lead designer, founder and art direction… at your brand Forestbound. How do you find the time to train for marathons?
The best part about having your own business is that you can make your own schedule. I am a morning person, so I always start my day at the studio quite early .. but when I’m training it’s usually extra early. I run my best later in the day once my stomach has calmed down and acclimated to the day, so I’ll usually end my day at the studio around 3 and head home to get my run in before it gets dark. And then I spend a few hours in the evening working from home - just answering emails, writing up invoices, etc. It’s definitely tough to fit it all in! But I’ve found a rhythm and a schedule that works for me and my business.
Do you find that running inspires your work?
Most definitely! The self confidence and strength that running brought into my life directly effected my business. Running a small business on your own is really hard, and requires a lot of grit. A big part of why I was able to keep up with it all and keep pushing myself to new places professionally was because of the positive effect that running had on my life. In a similar way to how running helped me cope with my dad’s illness, running helped me to stay focused and driven during a time of my life when it would have been so easy to just fall apart.
I fell in love with your little yoga nook when you Instagrammed it. I was honored to see you were doing Jasyoga videos. How did you get started on that?
I’ve been familiar with Jasyoga for quite a while because of Oiselle and love Erin’s Temper Tamer video from last year - I incorporated it into my taper before Vermont City and was really wishing there were more Jasyoga videos available!
And then a few months ago I saw a tweet about the Jasyoga online video library and had a little (positive) freakout. Marathon training is so much more than just running - it’s strength training, stretching, PT, sports massage, proper nutrition, getting enough sleep, etc and all of these things take up so much time. I know that yoga works wonders for my body when I’m training, but for me going to yoga classes ended up just being another thing to add to the list and unfortunately it was the one that always got pushed to the bottom. But Jasyoga videos changed all of that!
It’s truly the perfect solution for busy runners like me because you can choose the video that fits into what time you have available - a 5 minute hamstring reset, 10 minutes of core work, or a comprehensive 45 minutes of full body reset. If I have 30 minutes before I go to bed and my hamstrings are tight I’ll pick a few videos to help those muscles reset and recover. Or if I have a full weekend day at home I’ll choose a longer sequence of videos to work on mobility and strength training. Plus I can do it all right from home! No schlepping to a studio.
Do you have a favorite video?
Hm that’s a tough one! But I have been doing the 5 minute calf reset almost every day. My calves have been particularly stiff the last few weeks and this short video works wonders. Plus, it’s only 5 minutes - anyone can find 5 extra minutes!
Have you noticed a difference in your running?
I’ve most definitely noticed a difference in my running. Overall my legs, glutes and core just feel happier and more relaxed, which makes such a big difference when you’re marathon training and logging so many miles.
Jasyoga, more than any other yoga I’ve done, is so well suited for runners. We put our bodies through so much when we’re training and our muscles are usually so tight and stiff. Erin is incredibly conscious of this and makes sure that muscles get warmed up slowly for more effective stretching, rather than just going right into deep bends and lunges, which was always a problem for me at local yoga studios.
What advice would you give a new Jasyogi?
Don’t just look to yoga for recovery! Incorporating pre-run yoga before my Sunday long runs has helped my legs feel strong and peppy for those 18-20 milers. My favorite pre run video is Align Your Stride.
Okay, we’re SO excited to track your race on Monday. Wishing you the very, very best and a nice cool breeze.