Fresno’s Jesus Campos was denied a fifth straight win at the Two Cities Marathon & Half on Sunday because of cramps and running a slower time than last year. Still, he was all smiles after Sunday’s 26.2-mile effort.
The reason: his students.
“They motivate me,” said Campos, who works as a Spanish teacher at Cooper Academy and also organizes a running club for youth. “They shout and wave when we see each other. It’s really nice.”
When Campos reached mile 20 in the midst of his agonizing stomach cramps, 12-year-old Faith Martinez waved her arms and yelled “Go Mr. Campos! Go!” Faith wasn’t cheering from the sidelines — she was waiting at the relay point for teammate Samuel Kellar to finish the first leg of the Clovis half-marathon relay.
They are members of the running club at Cooper Academy and have enjoyed their time learning from Mr. Campos.
“He makes running fun for us,” said Faith.
Added Samuel: “It’s kind of cool. He pushes us to do races we might not normally do.” He ran in the California Classic Half Marathon earlier this year.
Campos always runs with his students and when he can, finds opportunities for them to run outside of school — a local 5K, charity race or half marathon.
“I just like sharing” his passion for running, Campos said humbly.
It’s true. The day before the race, he opened his home to fellow elite runner Edward Korir of Kenya, the man who ended up beating him in the full marathon.
“I’ve won this race the past four years. It doesn’t matter anymore,” said Campos, who turns 30 on Thursday. “I’m just having a good time. This running community is a really special one.”
Running with a purpose
• Jesus Madrigal of Madera ran his fourth consecutive Two Cities half marathon since starting a workout regimen four years ago.
The 36-year-old once weighed more than 330 pounds. “Bear,” as his family calls him, is down to 215 and ran a personal-best 2:04:45 Sunday.
“It’s a lot of work, but it feels better because it hurts less at the end,” he said.
• Martha “Marty” Wilbur likely became the oldest finisher in the Two Cities Marathon.
Wilbur, who turned 100 in May, crossed the finish line with granddaughter Melanie Krebs, who pushed her in a racing wheelchair most of the way. But Wilbur, who had surgery for a broken hip two years ago, walked the last quarter-mile. She and Krebs finished in 3:33:43.
• Jeff Cendz and Michael Lara for the sixth year in a row helped their best friend, John Cornelius, push his 20-year-old disabled son Joseph in a wheelchair. Joseph suffers from severe cerebral palsy and cannot speak or move, but enjoys going on runs with his father while strapped into a specialized wheelchair.
Known as Team Joseph, the three friends alternated pushing Joseph through the Clovis half while receiving all kinds of support, including chants of “Team Joseph” from spectators and runners holding hands with Joseph.
Said Lara: “Joseph’s our heart and we’re his legs.”
• Wearing a Superwoman costume and the words “FOR JOSE” on his bib, Jorge Ramirez ran the Clovis half to give himself a slight bit of pain in honor of a lifelong best friend who has experienced worse.
That friend is Jose Ramirez, who suffered an aortic aneurysm and was told by doctors he’d never be able stand on his own again. Jorge said Jose proved his naysayers wrong and is now able to walk.
“That will,” he said. “In honor of his struggle, I gave myself one. It’s about an internal struggle. Every runner has a reason they’re running.”
Moment of silence
Prior to the start of the Clovis half, race officials held a moment of silence to honor one of the biggest helpers behind the scenes.
John Micheli each year worked with fellow volunteer Russ Lee for the final 24 hours setting up the four race courses.
Micheli died in February at age 65. Two Cities also honored Micheli by putting his name on the back of this year’s race shirts.