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Stern Somebody Presents: Alana Levy

The Oppy staff is proud to continue its feature, “Stern Somebody”, where we have the opportunity to tell the stories of our remarkable classmates and how they became the exceptional people they are today.

In this issue, it is our pleasure to present Alana Levy. Alana is a Langone student who started at Stern in 2019. She has eight years of experience building and scaling technology organizations in numerous capacities – from product development to program management to software sales. Currently at Flatiron Health, she partners with cross-functional teams to bring new products to market, translating product strategy into action. Alana received a BA from Cornell, a Post-Bacc from Columbia, and an MPH from the University of Edinburgh.

A former Division I track and field athlete, Alana runs competitively for Brooklyn Track Club’s Performance Team and is hoping to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Team Trials in the marathon. She is FAST. To give you an idea of how speedy she is, here are a list of her current personal bests: 

  • 800: 2:13
  • Mile: 4:55
  • 3k: 9:46
  • 5k: 17:31
  • Half Marathon: 1:20:44
  • Marathon: 3:02:00

Clearly, she is a super casual runner…

Alana, you have quite the interesting background! You work in healthcare and technology, are an MBA student at Stern, and are a semi-professional runner. WOW!

Haha, I just like having free time.

Ok, where to begin? So, you went to undergrad at Cornell and were a D1 Track & Field and Cross Country runner. When did you start running? 

I grew up playing sports and started playing soccer when I was 5. I was pretty good, but realized it was mostly because I could outrun everyone to the ball. As a kid, I’d go to the track with my family and would run and play on the infield while they ran. I competed in my first 5k race when I was 9, then joined my middle school, high school, college, and now post-collegiate teams. Both of my older brothers ran collegiately as well, so once I started running, it became the natural path to follow.

You’re a whole family of runners! What was it like to be a D1 runner and have to succeed in classes at an Ivy league school? That could not have been easy.

Let’s maybe de-emphasize “succeeding.” But running at Cornell just felt normal. I’d run and had school every day before then, so I didn’t see college as that different. I’m also lucky that some of my best friends have been runners, so it’s a social outlet as well. I’d have class during the day, practice in the evenings, then stay at the library until it closed.

Did you have to decide between a professional running career or a more typical career? What helped guide you?

I had an amazing high school career, then a number of injuries which led to a pretty disappointing college career, but becoming a professional runner was never something I really envisioned. I still ran throughout my 20s, but I’ve only recently started racing competitively again. It’s a shock for everyone, for me especially.

I cannot wait to hear what brought you back into competitive running! But first, what brought you to Edinburgh for a Masters in Public Health? What motivated you to do a MPH?

I’d planned on spending a year at Edinburgh to deepen my knowledge of the healthcare industry before applying to medical school. Instead, my MPH changed how I’d thought about healthcare and taught me to view patient care from a macro level. I saw how technology could empower medical professionals and entrepreneurs to impact medical outcomes at scale, and wanted to drive work that would have an outsized effect on patients around the world. 

What did you do after you came back from Scotland? How did you combine your passions of healthcare and technology? Or, are they passions?

I began working at an accelerator for early stage health tech companies. I then joined Oscar, a tech-enabled health insurance company, and was on the founding team of a startup that addressed healthcare affordability by developing tools to lower patient out-of-pocket medical expenses. Finally, I landed at Flatiron Health, a software and services company focused on accelerating cancer research and improving patient care, where I’ve been for the past 5 years. Working at Flatiron has been incredible—I see the impact of our work on a daily basis and am constantly inspired by the mission and the people around me. I’ve had the opportunity to work across multiple teams, drive projects forward that have a tangible impact on patients’ lives, and watch the company grow from 200 to 1,200. It’s been a blast.

What brought you to Stern?

I wanted to take a deliberate approach to learning and supplement my industry work with MBA coursework. In particular, I wanted to strengthen my leadership and management skills, and begin incubating new business ideas. Mostly, the Stern part-time MBA gave me an excuse to move downtown, leave work just a little bit early 2-3 nights per week, and make some great friends—all while keeping everything else I’ve loved doing constant.

Ok, now back to the running! How has your running progressed through all of this?

After college, I was mostly just running for fun. I’d pop into a few races here and there. I trained with the University of Edinburgh running club and somehow won the Scottish Universities National Championships in the 1500m while I was there. I really started running my best when I joined Brooklyn Track Club in 2018. Since joining, I’ve set personal bests in every event, and now have my sights set on making the 2024 Olympic Trials in the marathon. It’s the first time I’ve really had a goal since college, and it’s something I’m really excited about training for over the next few years. Not only has Brooklyn Track Club given me a group of incredible training partners and friends, it’s also introduced me to a community of runners that constantly inspire me and keep me motivated.

What’s next on your list of goals?

I want to make the Olympic Trials in 2024 in the marathon. The standard is 2:45, so I have a long way to go, but running a 1:20 half marathon a few weeks ago has given me confidence that it’s something I can keep chipping away at. I’m inspired by the women who made it this past year—they’ve made the dream feel achievable.

I also want to start my own business. I’m the kind of person who loves to think of solutions to things, and I have a few business ideas that I’d one day like to take off the ground. Who knows, 2021 might be my year.

Ok, I must know. I miss races so much. This pandemic must have severely impacted your running. What are you doing now?

The pandemic has been hard on so many people this year, but I’ve been lucky to have been able to leave the city and spend a little more time running. I spent some time training at altitude with teammates this summer in Colorado, and when I returned to NYC in the fall, I was able to compete in a few small invitationals and time trials.

I have a love/hate relationship with virtual races. How do you feel about them?

I did several virtual races in the spring, and similarly have a love/hate relationship with them. They were a great motivating force, and gave me something to look forward to. My favorite virtual series was with Trials of Miles—they put on a March Madness-type event, where you competed one-on-one bracket-style each week until there was a winner. That said, racing on your own is somehow even more painful, often much slower, and definitely less fun than when there are others to push you.

People ask me all the time, why I love running and now, I get to ask you. What is it that makes you so passionate about running?

It’s hard to answer this question because running is such an integral part of my life. On a physical level, I love pushing myself, having an immediate feedback loop, and never quite knowing what I’m capable of. Mentally, running is my time to recharge, and over the years, has taught me a lot about hard work and resilience. Finally, running has connected me to an amazing community and group of friends that I learn from every day. I feel lucky that I have something that I care so deeply about.

Do you have any advice for our fellow Sternies, who want to get into running? I mean, not competitively, maybe just helping them get to a short-term running distance.

Running isn’t comfortable at first, but you’ll get to a point where it’s as easy to run for 1 mile as it is for 1 hour. All it takes is some consistency, and you’ll start to feel it getting easier and faster. It can also be really helpful to follow a training plan and set goals so you can see progress. I’ve found that tracking my weekly mileage on a platform like Strava keeps me honest. It’s also really motivating to see what others are doing. Anyone looking to get into running can reach out to me and I can point them to great resources!

And that’s the incredibly talented (and fast) Alana Levy! Alana, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I cannot wait to see the 2024 Olympic Trials and say, “I know her!”

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