BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Javier Cruz hit a major milestone at this year’s Bakersfield Marathon. It was his 100th marathon. But that's not what's motivating him.
“He was a good man, he was a good friend, and he was a good running partner," Cruz said. "I will be thinking here in this spot. I want to run through here, and he’s going to be carrying me.”
For 10 years, Cruz ran alongside his friend Joseph Temmel.
“The main goal believe or not, was to qualify for Boston and we both planned to go and run the Istanbul Marathon," he said.
Training together every day, Joseph hoped to run marathons just as fast as his friend. After almost a decade of training, Temmel qualified once.
“He always said in life the only way you can changes this is through sweat and hard work," Cruz said. “His medicine is in the pavement, he felt that this was the medicine he needed to keep going.”
In 2018, Temmel was diagnosed with stomach cancer, putting his training on hold for a year while he underwent chemotherapy and surgery until finally he was able to lace up once again.
“Relentless. He was strong. He was a faithful man that he can do it, and he promised me, I will run the half marathon. And yes, he did train very hard, even through Ramadan, without eating. He was very strong.”
In 2020, Cruz and Temmel were finally going to achieve a longtime dream, running in the Istanbul Marathon in Turkey — Temmel’s home country. But then the pandemic forced travel bans and they had to cancel their trip.
“We couldn’t go, and then before he died I promised him I’m going to go and get the Istanbul medal for him," Cruz said. “It was God’s destiny. Those were his last words, it was God’s destiny. And then at the end he told me, I’ll text you from Heaven.”
With those last words on his mind and their promise in his heart, Cruz made the trip out to Istanbul.
“I did go last last year, I ran it, I did very well, and I brought the medal and I put it around his neck," he said. "It’s going to be so challenging to run the marathon, he’s going to be carrying me. This is where we trained for years so his spirit I know is going to be here.”
Today, Cruz runs with the spirit of his friend, pushing him along every step of the way.
“I miss him, I miss him a lot. God bless him.”