It had been quite some time since I last ran a marathon, and to be clear, I've done quite a few. Joe's progress shared something with marathon training, namely that progress is measured more in steps forward followed by steps in retreat. As I logged miles, I thought of Joe logging hand raises; whilst I sweated, he writhed in pain.
Race day is often the day of reckoning--whatever you've done to improve yourself is all that you have as you toe the start line. Doubt and confidence fight for headspace. With that as a reference frame, I smiled at how Joe shaded towards confidence in his rehabilitation, and I should do likewise in a race in Denver. At altitude. By someone who trained at sea-level.
I learned about oxygen deficit, not like being force under water, but even the smallest hill left me gasping. In all marathons mile 23 is a point where exhaustion overtakes clarity and on this course mile 23 featured a rather steep hill. Thankfully I recalled why I was doing this and barked at the hill’s nadir, "This is for you Joe!" At the crest a mile later, I felt the sun behind me pushing me to the finish.
To this day, I still feel that Joe's spirit and determination were in Denver that day, propelling me forward to be better than I was when the starters pistol rang in the mountainous calm.