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Follow This Mother!

Alisa after her first-ever race, the 2007 Nike Women's Marathon half after having been up all night with the kiddo.

I have Twitter to thank for leading me to Alisa Bonsignore, a 38-year-old mom and writer in Pleasanton, Calif. I was intrigued by Alisa’s Twitter tagline of, “What would Betty do?” Find out who Betty is, as well as why it’s Alisa’s third year training for the Nike Women’s Marathon half yet it’ll be only her second time running the race.

Best recent run: Last Tuesday was our first tempo run of the Team in Training season. It’s not like I haven’t done one before, but somehow this time when Coach Tim said to go slower than your 5K pace, my brain absolutely warped and heard it as faster. We did four 3-minute tempo intervals and in the first one I peaked at 7:48/mile, infinitely faster than I’ve ever run before. Talk about a confidence booster!

Sweaty Betty: My grandmother, Betty, was a high school track star in the 1930’s, and a working mom

"The real Betty, winning the high jump in high school, evidently by jumping over someone else's disembodied head. I'd give her a medal for that, too," Alisa says

long before it was common. She was active well into her 80s and I was always convinced she’d outlive all of us. I think she’d be surprised to see I’ve developed actual athletic talent as an adult, considering I had so little as a kid. I started my blog not just as a tribute to my grandmother, but also because my mother (Betty’s daughter) died at age 55 from heart disease and complications from obesity. She spent her life feeling like a failure because no diet ever worked for her. I wanted people to understand that even though we’re all strapped for time as we juggle our jobs and our families, it’s the little things, the incremental, sustainable changes that will make a difference in our lives and keep us healthy long term. It can be something as simple as cooking one extra meal at home instead of picking up take out, or going for a walk. My mother’s death was preventable if only she hadn’t been in that all-or-nothing mentality.

Broke Foot Mountain: I was three weeks away from the 2010 Nike Women’s Marathon half when I tripped in my kitchen and broke my foot. I was in an immobilizer boot for eight very long weeks, unable to drive or walk. I felt like a caged animal. Now when I have a bad run, I look back and marvel at how far I’ve come in a year, and I really appreciate what my body can do. Someday I won’t be able to do this; today isn’t that day.

Core commitment: On a whim, in 2001 I tried Pilates. A local studio paired me with an instructor named Mercy. After the first session, I thought I was going to die: I’ve always been tight, and Mercy worked muscles I didn’t know I had! But I stuck with it and absolutely love what it’s done for my flexibility, especially as a complement to running. For a several years (2003-2006) I actually owned a Pilates and yoga studio in San Jose, and Mercy worked for me in addition to being my personal trainer. Now she has a place of her own, and I make the 20-mile trek each way for a weekly session in which we do a combination of Pilates and therapeutic stretching that really keeps me going. I love her!

Hooked on LSD: I’ve been running since 2007 but it wasn’t until this year that the “slow” in LSD [Long, Slow Distance] really clicked. We did a 45-minute Team in Training run, and I stuck with a slower

Alisa's favorite race photo, at this year's Fourth of July 5K: a smile AND a race skirt? Looks like a badass mother runner to us.

interval runner rather than just powering through until I dropped. When I finished 4+ miles later, I felt like I could have gone another 10--it was a revelation.

Me and Justin’s: I’d been eating only carbs after my long Saturday morning runs. By lunchtime, I was irrational, irritable, and downright shaky. I knew I wasn’t replenishing properly, but I didn’t want to eat a protein bar with a list of strange ingredients. I discovered Justin’s Nut Butter packs: What a difference a little protein makes! I felt much better throughout the day and didn’t have the afternoon crash that I previously experienced.

There is an “I” in Team: I joined Team in Training after a friend’s husband died of lymphoma last year, and I run and fundraise in his memory. That’s the feel-good, altruistic story. The selfish story is I now know how fantastic the training program is, and how important it is to have a plan and someone to keep you accountable. What I thought would be a single-season commitment has become an important part of my life.

Follow this mother at: on Twitter.


10 responses to “Follow This Mother!

  1. That is so cool about your grandmother. My great grandmother was really active as well. She had a lot of pictures of her playing basketball in high school. She walked almost every day until only a few years before she passed. I love stuff like that.

    1. Mine was in track and field, field hockey and basketball in high school. I knew that she was a firecracker as an adult, but didn’t realize how athletic she’d been until after she died and I found the newspaper clippings and yearbooks. I have a couple of her medals from track meets and her varsity letter.

  2. I *LOVE* this MotherRunner! I just started a mother runner’s group (thanks to AMR) and we call ourselves “The Running Betty’s”…because we thought the name was sassy & evoked a can-do spirit! I’m so happy to know that there actually is a badass Betty that had a vivacious spirit & challenged herself.

    Alisa: you made my day!

    We are having t-shirts printed up with a fun logo & I’d love to send you one! 🙂

    Good Luck at the NWM!

  3. I loved this! Reminds me of my beloved grandmother, Lois, who was a trailblazing broad in her own right. I love your attitude and your willingness to keep learning from the challenges inherent in daily living. Cheers!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this! I read it before I went out for a run this morning and was not too psyched to go but something you said stuck with me: “someday I won’t be able to do this and today is not that day” I actually repeated that to myself for the first half mile.
    Turned out to be a great run!
    Good luck at NWM!

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