Culture

How Alice Saunders Keeps the Joy of Running Alive

The Forestbound bag designer has “mastered the art of looking very chill.” Here’s how the busy business owner makes it all work—and finds time to escape.

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There were many things Alice Saunders never saw in her future when she was growing up in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. But namely, she never imagined becoming a 3:19 marathoner while also running her own successful business. But here she is: Saunders, 35, is the designer and creator of Forestbound, a company that uses salvaged textiles to create unique tote bags and carryalls, and has released collaborations with Tracksmith, Keds, Patagonia, Anthropologie, and the New England Patriots. It’s a one-woman show that keeps Saunders busy in her home studio designing, cutting, sewing, and shipping, all under one roof.

So when is she running—and when does she actually get to, well, escape? Here are her keys to making it work.

Clear inbox, full heart, can’t lose

Even though Saunders runs her own business and can create her own schedule, she’s insistent on running a tight ship. “I have somehow mastered the art of looking like I am very chill when, in fact, I am the exact opposite,” Saunders says. “I do best with routine and discipline, and strive for efficiency in every part of my day.” Saunders wakes up at 5:30 a.m., and usually heads straight to the studio with her dog, Maisey. Her day is mostly spent responding to emails, processing orders, packing up wholesale orders for her retailers all over the world, and then working on designing and sewing new one-of-a-kind bags as well as custom bags for clients. By 6 p.m., it’s time for a spin class or an evening run, followed by a quick home-cooked dinner, a little reading, and bed by 9:30 p.m.

And while she swears by a strict, self-enforced routine, she doesn’t use Google Calendar or even a planner. “I just try to get my inbox down to zero every day, and make sure I’m getting back to customers and retailers as fast as possible—not only to keep my inbox clear, but also my brain.”

Alice runs in the Boston Marathon
PHOTO: Courtesy Alice Saunders

Ditch the watch, add the dog, find the joy

Saunders admits she isn’t running as often as she’d like right now due to her hectic work schedule. Her regular 3–5-mile runs with her dog and fiancé on their local trails has been great for her relationship with running.

“Around five years ago, I had gotten to a pretty unhealthy place,” she says. “I was running hard, fast, and only enjoying my runs when I was succeeding, either in time or distance. All the joy of running had slipped away from me, and it became something that just reflected either success or failure.” Stepping back from time goals and hard training runs—and ditching the GPS watch—has helped her rediscover fun on the run. She’s also found a different way to race: with Maisey. They ran their first official “canicross” 5K last spring, and had a blast. “Maisey, typically a shy and anxious dog, got so focused and determined as soon as the race started,” says Saunders. “Racing with her is a way for me to put the focus less on myself and my performance, and more on just soaking up the joyous experience of running alongside my best companion.”

Prioritize the escape

“Even though my work/life balance is pretty nonexistent, I am strict with myself about taking weekends off from April through October,” says Saunders. Ever since she bought an off-the-grid cabin in New Hampshire three years ago, that’s the weekend getaway.

“The time I spend at our cabin has become invaluable, and a really integral piece of my life and happiness. We have no cell service, no running water, no electricity. At first it was a little disorienting, but now I crave it.” (The only way they can access the internet is to get in the canoe and paddle out to the middle of the pond, or hike 20 minutes up an old logging road.) After a weekend of canoeing, fishing, cooking over the fire, and going on trail runs, Saunders says she feels like the best version of herself. “I try to take this version of me back into the studio when I show up to start grinding away on Monday mornings.”