MEXICO CITY - When Jesús Villanueva attended the Mexico City marathon as a bystander late last month, he didn't expect to help out a runner in the most unusual yet gratifying way.
The 36-year-old gave one of his shoes to one of the marathoners, identified as Jerry Manzano, after his shoe had broken. Manzano was able to not only complete the race but qualified for the upcoming Boston Marathon.
Villanueva said at some point during the race, one of Manzano's shoed started to break apart with the sole separating.
Picture of Jerry Manzano's broken shoe. (Credit: Jesús Villanueva)
"I yelled at him asking if he wanted mine, to which to my surprise he answered ‘yes,’" Villanueva told FOX Television Stations.
Despite the shoe being two sizes too big, Manzano squeezed into it and continued the race.
"I did it spontaneously without really thinking about the magnitude of what I was doing. Another part of me thinks that it was out of empathy," Villanueva added. "Having run several marathons, I put myself in their shoes, and it would have been a tragedy not to be able to finish the marathon."
Jerry Manzano competing in the Mexico City Marathon. (Credit: Jesús Villanueva)
After the marathon finished, Villanueva expected to get his shoe back, but he didn't. He then continued on his day without wearing shoes.
"That was the end of my relationship with Jerry at that time. I returned to my car on a rented bike, had breakfast at a restaurant without tennis shoes," he continued with a laugh.
Villanueva then posted his story to Instagram, hoping to at least get his shoe back and give his followers a story to chuckle about.
"I uploaded a story on Instagram talking about my anecdote and laughing at the situation with the slightest hope that someone would see it and know where my tennis shoes were," he said.
Eventually, someone saw the post and told Villanueva that Manzano finished the race. He also told Villanueva that Manzano has autism and "had been working very hard for this marathon."
Villanueva ended up meeting Manzano and getting his shoes back.
Villanueva said he wasn't expecting his simple gesture to make such a huge impact.
"A little surprised to be honest," he said. "I never thought he would have such significance. I feel proud of Jerry for what he achieved. I actually believe that he is the hero of the story."
"That sometimes we don't realize that such a small action can do so much for someone else."
This story was reported from Los Angeles.