I’m watching the New York City marathon on television as I sit down to write this week’s All Good Things. Marathon Sunday is a beloved holiday for the boroughs of New York City: it rivals New Years Day! We count down to the start, and we are inspired by the efforts of others to set our own goals. We come together with strangers from all over the world to cheer on those achieving what seems impossible to many of us. It's a spectator sport with over 1 million onlookers lining the race course across all 5 boroughs, and 50,000 participants who earn a medal if they finish the race. Everyone’s a winner. Everyone's a winner because they set out to DO something, something larger than themselves on this day. It’s a full day of ball-dropping confetti and noise-making that doesn’t let up until the last runners find their way to the finish line in Central Park.
All the years I lived in Long Island City, I had a front row seat at the marathon’s halfway mark on Vernon Boulevard in Queens. My old neighborhood is like a warm welcome mat for the runners - that stretch of the race belonged to us. They were coming into our houses and it was our job to embrace them with encouragement and support. Olympic athletes, global citizens, record breakers, super heroes. Super Heroes; not up on a big movie screen, but live and in person in our front yards, inspiring the world.
We’d camp out all day for the parade of athletes. The streets flooded with every color of skin, every imaginable combination of size, shape, clothing, culture, every disability represented, every charity championed and honored. Each runner has a bib with their number and hopefully their name written somewhere on their body so we can call out to them and cheer them on personally.
If you know me at all, you know I’m easily inspired. Marathon Sunday is one of my favorite days of inspiration. Each set of feet that passes me is like a coin being dropped into the bank of my own personal goals. I'm invested. Every name called out is a reinforcement that if they can run these 26.2 miles, then I better get off my butt and start chasing my own victories. It’s a reminder that anything is possible.
The thundering pounding of the pavement and roar of the crowd comes in through my ears and meets up with what I’m seeing with my eyes. These two elements combine and flow down to my heart - my emotional center that holds my hopes, my dreams, my gratitude, my deepest love. It's emotional. It’s overwhelming. It’s humbling.
When I was home in Missouri earlier this month to help out with my family, I went through boxes and bags tucked away in closets and drawers. I found treasures from my early days of goal setting and accomplishment. Also emotionally overwhelming, and also humbling.
My hometown newspaper, The Joplin Globe, hosts an annual spelling bee. The competition is only open to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders from all around the area. Each school has an individual Bee to decide who will represent them in the bigger arena. I think around eighty kids competed back then and the winner won a $50 savings bond.
My fourth-grade year, I studied and drilled my wordlists. I was determined to be chosen - not only to represent my school but to represent myself. I won against all the other fourth and fifth graders of St. Mary's Elementary!
I put on a pretty dress and got out of school to compete in the big Joplin Globe Spelling Bee. I felt like a warrior princess - a smart little person of academic royalty slaying letters and words. I did the same thing my fifth-grade year AND my sixth-grade year representing St. Peter's Junior High!
I never won the big Bee. The closest I got to winning was thirteenth place, I think. But here’s the thing. I tasted a victory that embedded itself deep inside me and accompanies me in everything I do, still to this day. Those three years shaped me into someone who tries and gives my all again and again. They proved that hard work and dedication is a trade-off for the self-satisfaction of accomplishment. I learned to sacrifice free time to gain advancement in other areas. My spelling bee years cemented my love of words and language. The rest of my life has been reflective of this little girl ‘pensively pondering.’
As I watch the marathon, the commentators keep talking about the margin of victory. I wasn’t really sure what that meant so I looked it up. Basically, it’s the gap between the winner and the loser. How many more points scored or how much time lapsed in race times. It made me think about the margin of victory in my little spelling bees. I never won, and yet I was a winner by association, by participation, by my own hard work and belief in myself. It mattered not where I placed next to the winner. By taking the stage to attack these words, all margins of victory were erased. We all felt like winners.
The New York City Marathon has only 4 winners. One man and one woman in the wheelchair race, and one man and one woman in the foot race. We all want the blue ribbon, the trophy, the medal, the recognition. We all want the raise, the promotion, the role. Our eyes are constantly on the prize. That’s a good healthy practice for us all to continue to raise our own bars. But it’s not the only thing or the most important thing.
Our margins of victory shouldn’t be measured in win/loss recognition. Coming up on 2018, I want to check in with myself and think of the marathon runners as well as grade school spelling bee Lisa. Am I doing my best? Have I done the hard work? Am I cheering on my neighbor or am I only looking out for myself? Am I staying in my own lane or am I comparing and despairing at my performance against that of my peers? Am I being kind to myself and others as I pursue my dreams? Those things will determine my victories. Showing up for myself with pride and confidence, with the desire to inspire others is my winning combination.
Last week I came up with a winning combination for a breakfast recipe that would fuel an elite athlete marathon runner or a fourth, fifth, or sixth grader studying for a spelling bee. And it’s perfect for the season!
Pumpkin Overnight Oats with Apple Butter
- 3/4 cup canned pumpkin pie filling
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups rolled oats (not quick cook)
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 1 3/4 cup soy milk
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- apple butter to garnish
- Mix everything together in a bowl until well combined.
- Spoon into jars or plastic containers that can be closed with a lid.
- Place in fridge overnight or for a minimum of a few hours.
- In the morning, check the consistency and add a little more milk if it seems too thick.
- Swirl in a heaping spoonful of apple butter before you eat each serving.
- Keeps up to 4 days in the fridge.
- I usually put granola or dried fruit on top of my overnight oats, but the apple butter compliments the pumpkin perfectly! Feel free to swap out a different milk, or add seeds and nuts too.