Millions of us are enchanted by New York’s energy, innovation, and infinite offerings — so much so that we never leave. One such transplant is Leah DeFilippis. The intelligent and driven Ms. DeFilippis relocated to New York City over nine years ago to study at FIT, then consequently stayed to start her professional career in the City she fell hard for. By day, Ms. DeFilippis is a home products designer at VCNY Home and by night, she indulges in the arts and culture scene. While she previously possessed qualities conducive to thriving in, and enjoying life, we know, too, that NYC is known to build strong character.
New Yorkers love challenges, and Ms. DeFilippis has gladly taken on a big one. By combining her mental focus and physical ability — and channeling inspiration from Japanese novelist and running enthusiast Haruki Murakami — she decided to sign up and train for her first NYC Half Marathon, which takes place this Sunday, March 19. She will be running the 13.1 mile route for her own health and wellness, but also -- thinking about larger community -- to raise money and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
In New York Maker’s recent interview with Leah, we discussed everything from her Half Marathon diet regime — which she says boils down to just being conscious and creative — to her favorite cross street to snap classic New York City photographs. Her New York State of Mind is “inspired”, — as are we, as will you likely be, too, by her. Read below to get-to-know this strong New Yorker.
Q: When did you move to New York City and why?
A: I moved to New York City when I was 18. I grew up reading Architectural Digest and always knew I wanted to work in the design industry. I was born and raised in a small beach town in New Jersey and wanted more exposure and cultural diversity, so I came to FIT in 2007 to pursue my career in Home Products Development. I haven't left since.
Commemorating nine years in New York. Photo Credit: Leah DeFilippis
Q: You have moved throughout the boroughs a few times over the years. Which would you consider to be your favorite neighborhood?
A: I've lived all over from Chelsea, to The Upper East Side, to Williamsburg. Each neighborhood is so distinctive so it's hard to pick a favorite, but I would say the East Village. It's colorful, lively, and overall inspiring.
Q: Let's talk New York City Half Marathon. What was the catalyst for deciding you wanted to sign up?
A: Last winter on a flight to Copenhagen I read Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running."
Click the image to purchase What I Talk About When I Talk About Running on Amazon.
His idea of "If you don't keep repeating a mantra of some sort to yourself, you'll never survive" resonated with me, so I started to approach running differently. Instead of running for distance I would time myself for an hour and see how far I could push myself. This took my mental and physical training to new levels, so I signed up for the NYC Half Marathon to stay focused during the cold city months, which could usually be demotivating.
Late nights spent running the landscape of NYC. Photo Credit: Leah DeFilippis
Q: It seems you eat healthy and your recipes are a foodie's dream. Can you tell us about your diet regime, especially how it pertains to the Half Marathon, and how you come up with the intricate and delicious-looking plates we see on your Instagram account?
A: Food styling and recipe development is my absolute favorite pastime. On weekdays I usually skip breakfast and French press (something I'm working to change) but I pack my lunch every morning. It's usually some sort of salad. I'll roast a rainbow of veggies and make a large batch of quinoa on Sundays to have for my salads all week. No matter what goes in them there's always nuts and avocado. I could live off kale and avocados alone. And of course, peanut butter! If I'm running late in the morning my go to lunch is a peanut butter sandwich.
I cook at home 5 nights a week; If I'm cooking for myself it's usually a macro bowl, a veggie burger, or another salad. I cook for friends at least once a week; that’s when I get most creative. Most of my inspiration comes from a combination of travels, Pinterest, and Instagram. I have an affinity for all things Middle Eastern so I cook a lot of Israeli food. There is always homemade hummus from the Zahav cookbook in my fridge.
Banana “nice” cream, soft baked gluten free walnut and blueberry granola balls, almonds, chia/flax seeds, pepitas, shredded raw coconut and bee pollen with a pitcher full of finger lime infused water. Photo Credit: Leah DeFilippis
When I first started training for the half marathon, a fellow marathoner told me not to change my diet regime too much. I don't eat meat, so I have found myself carb loading more than usual, but, when you're running 20 miles a week, eating pizza and ramen acts more like leg fuel.
Q: Have you explored other regions of New York State and if so, what is your favorite non-City spot and why?
A: I like to get upstate as often as possible in the Fall. As an art lover, my favorite non-City spot is Beacon. Dia Foundation’s upstate outpost, Dia: Beacon, is one of the dopest spaces I’ve been to in New York. It features some fantastic sculptures and installations, some of my personal favorites are by Richard Serra and Dan Flavin. The town has great bed and breakfast options. Swann Inn is delightful, and has good eats and bars as well. I like to have midday cocktails at Roundhouse overlooking Beacon Falls. If you stay overnight, you can take a quick twenty-five minute drive to Storm King Art Center which is a really awesome sculpture park.
We asked Leah to fill in her New York City favorites below!
Restaurant: Cafe Mogador
Bar: Amor y Amargo
Retail store: Barneys
Outdoor public space: The High Line
Professional sports team: The New York Football Giants
Famous New Yorker: Larry David
Cross street for snapping classic NYC photos: Bleecker and Grove
Training route: I usually enter the East River Promenade at 10th street and run down to Battery Park for the perfect 10 mile run