When Jesus Campos should have slowed, he accelerated. When his legs were supposed to grow weary, they surged with strength.
Campos, the men's champion of the sixth annual Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon, was motivated by personal loss Sunday. The 30-year-old Spanish teacher from Fresno dedicated the race to the late Miguel Reyes, his friend and running partner who died three weeks ago in an auto accident.
If Campos' heart was heavy, it was lightened by his through-the-roof stamina. He crossed the finish line with a slight grin and the kind of satisfaction that couldn't be quantified.
"He (Reyes) was going to race with me here," Campos said. "I'm happy I did this for him. I thought of him a lot today."
Campos finished the virtually flat 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 33 seconds, slower than his course-record 2:26.53 set in 2013. Mere stats hardly mattered to him. His relentless rally over the final 12 miles opened a seven-minute gap between him and runner-up Bai Nie of Santa Clara (2:37.40).
Later, 30-year-old nurse Anna Bretan of Berkeley -- who beat Campos for the overall Modesto title last year -- claimed the women's title with a personal-best 2:39.04, a two-minute improvement over her performance in 2014.
More than 3,000 runners from 29 states and four countries, a slightly lower turnout than last year, gathered before dawn to the start line in ideal 52-degree weather. The field featured 713 (397 men and 316 women) for the full marathon.
Campos settled behind Nie at first. The Fresnan, a Boston Marathon qualifier in 2013, took part in his 32nd marathon. His credentials are legit with four wins at the Two Cities (Fresno) and other triumphs at Modesto and Big Sur.
Problem was, his training had been spotty since the death of Reyes on March 9 in Bakersfield, where he had been working on a construction site. The duo had plans for Modesto. Last year, Reyes had qualified for Boston here and had won a $500 drawing. They enjoyed a good run together on a Sunday a month ago, the day before Reyes died.
"I wasn't sure I could even beat three hours today," Campos said. "I told my girlfriend I just wanted to find out how my body feels. You never really know how your body will react."
As it turned out, he felt better than good. About 14 miles in, Campos started his drive with a series of 5:35 miles. No one stayed close.
Campos hopes to organize a meet in his friend's memory next year in Fresno. Next to what he did in Modesto, it feels like the right thing to do.
"I'm happy," he said, "and I think he's happy."
Besides Jesus Campos' overall win, other Fresno-area highlights from Sunday's Modesto Marathon:
Men's Marathon: 4. Oswaldo Lopez, Madera, 2:44:40. 7. Matthew Klundt, Fresno, 2:50:02.
Marathon age-division winners: Men's 30-34, Campos. Men's 40-44, Lopez. Men's 60-64, David Ruvalcaba, Madera, 3:16:51. Women's 35-39, Jackie Quintero, Fresno, 3:48:10.
Women's 5K: 1. Kinsey Langley, Hughson, 21:11. 2. Lisa Padilla, Fresno, 22:03. 3. Christine Card, Fresno, 22:11.