Vicky Leavitt: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Vicky Leavitt, 43, assistant professor of neuropsychology at the Sergievsky Center, ran her first  (and thus far, only) marathon 13 years ago on a whim when a running mate suggested, off hand, that they sign up. The idea was crazy enough that she had to follow through.

When did you start running, and why? And what is the longest distance you have run? 

I started running in my twenties, when I was single and living in New York City. I needed exercise that was cheap, easy, and would keep my body in shape. I did not like running at all, but I was not motivated enough to join a gym, so I just started running over to the East River from my East Village apartment.

A friend and I started running that crazy New Year’s Eve midnight race through Central Park— one year,  I ran it dressed like a cow. After the race one time, which was four miles— the furthest I had ever run— he turned to me and said, “Let’s run the marathon!”

It seemed entirely impossible, which is probably why once the idea was out there, I absolutely had to do it. Incidentally, my friend who suggested it did not get in by lottery and I did, so I ran it alone. That was 2002, and it was one of the single most fun things I have ever done in my life.

Jump ahead 13 years and three childbirths later, and I’m finally resuming my running. I was recently up to running about 2-3 times per week, 3-5 miles at a time— not exactly marathon training. But then several months ago, a friend who I introduced to running turned to me after a run and said “Let’s run the marathon!” I somehow couldn’t resist. We entered the lottery. Once again, I got in and this friend, like the last, did not!

Why are you running the NYC Marathon?

I find there to be remarkably few opportunities in life when we set a distinct, time-delimited goal, and then achieve it. So much of what we do and work towards cannot be quantified, and the rewards are not always fully or immediately realized. Running a marathon is an instance in which all of this comes together: intense, finite training allowing for the achievement of small, incremental milestones, all accumulating in support of one clear and distinct goal that will be reached on November 1.

My training helps me wrap my head around other aspects of my life, like my professional career, in which I remind myself to keep my focus on the long-range goal and not worry about small setbacks along the way. I become very cereal-box-philosophical when I’m training for a marathon!

What is your goal on race day?

I am the turtle: “Slow and steady wins the race.” For me, finishing equals winning.

Does this distance— or this particular race— have any special meaning for you?

The last time I ran the NYC Marathon, I was in a different stage of life. I was 30, single, hadn’t started a family, and hadn’t even begun graduate school. Now I’m 43, I have a very full life with three kids, a husband, and a fulfilling (and busy) professional life. My first marathon proved to me that I could do it, and probably inspired me to take a lot of the big chances I’ve taken since then. This one will prove to me that I can still keep pushing myself to achieve more than I ever thought possible.