Sunday's muggy weather had participants in the 13th annual St. Marys River Road Run dripping with sweat, and complaining that their lungs seemed unable to convert the moisture-filled air into energy for their legs.
So there were ample reasons why personal-best times in the 3-kilometre and 14-km events were rare, and winners in the various age categories generally finished well off race records.
But of equal importance in the increased times was a major change in the course itself -- a change that will almost certainly persist through future River Road Runs, in accordance with positive feedback from race participants.
According to race director Marco Balestrin, of St. Marys, relocating both the start line (formerly atop the Queen Street East hill by the train station) and the finish line (formerly at the Flats) to the Quarry area offers various advantages.
These include accommodating both start and finish in close proximity; eliminating almost all need to use the town's busiest streets (a short stretch of the new route travels along Water Street to start the race but the return portion, with runners more spread out than during the "mass start," utilizes the Riverview Walkway); and, in the form of the Lind Sportsplex, providing a comfortable, well-sheltered facility in which runners can wind down and enjoy complimentary post-race nourishment and massages.
"Not having the downhill (from the train station to downtown) at the start made for some slower times," agreed race director Balestrin, who finished ninth with a time of 57 minutes, 44 seconds.
"People always came out really fast (on the hill) and knocked a few seconds off their time."
Balestrin's time put him second among local runners, 56 seconds behind seventh-place finisher Gregg Blackler. Two places behind Balestrin was Bernd Grobbecker, in 58:35.
And four seconds back was another St. Marys area resident, 16-year-old Mike Weersink, who placed first among young runners.
Also breaking the one-hour barrier on the new course were women's first-place winner Julie Froud Lynch of Stratford -- a St. Marys DCVI graduate -- and 13-year-old Joe Smith, of St. Marys. Froud Lynch and Smith placed 14th and 15th overall, respectively.
London police officer
This year's champion was Steve Cochrane, a London police officer who, remarkably, broke a bone in his hip on June 22, 2004.
He resumed his love of running in September, 2004 after what he says was careful adherence to the advice of his doctors. It's somehow fitting, of course, that a success story of the medical sector should be given prominence through the River Road Run, which is a key fundraiser for the St. Marys Memorial Hospital Foundation.
Cochrane, who previously competed in the annual race in 2001 and 2002, finished 56 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, in a time of 50-57.
The gap between second and third was even greater; there was almost two minutes between runner-up Bevin Stevenson of Durham and Ben Perks of London.
Another racer was in the hunt through the early part of the course, at one point sprinting forward to overtake Cochrane as the eventual winner maintained his steady lead over Stevenson.
But that racer was soon forced to withdraw -- a victim, most likely, of the same muggy, moist air that kept Cochrane from attaining the kilometre-by-kilometre split times he initially hoped to achieve.
"It's so hot out there," the perspiration-soaked champion proclaimed to timing officials as he crossed the finish line.
Froud Lynch also admitted the humidity took its toll, though she could hardly complain about capturing the women's side of the race for the first time since she won it as a high school student in the 1990s.
After time spent on a running scholarship in the United States (Michigan), she returned to the River Road Run with a second-place finish last year.
Second among women was Marketta Myatt, of London, in one hour and 24 seconds. Deborah Powell, also of London, was third in 1-01-53.
First among young women in the 14-km race was 16-year-old Marianne Wilcox, of St. Marys, with a time of 1-12-49.
The 3-km. fun run featured its traditional mix of teenaged athletes sprinting off the start, younger siblings and friends trying to keep up, cautionary parents and fellow adult racers warning they'd expend all their energy in the first kilometre, and designated parents-with-strollers bringing up the rear with a mix of five-and-unders both of their own progeny and that of their friends.
There was a female winner for the new course; 11-year-old Alanna Fournie, of London, captured the race in an exciting dash to the finish against 12 year-old Glenn Hartman of Lakeside. Fournie's time was 12 minutes even; Hartman finished just three seconds back.
The race for third was equally exciting, and again a female triumphed. Fourteen year-old Inez Roelen, of Mossley, finished in 12-42, three seconds up on 10-year-old Brayden Dawson, of Cambridge.
Also placing in the top 10 were 11-year-old Sam Kirwin, of Embro, in seventh and 10-year-old Karl Hartman, of Lakeside, in ninth. First among local female runners was 15-year-old Janel Sauder, who placed 11th in a time of 13-47.
There were 210 participants over the two races, down slightly from last year's total. Balestrin was satisfied, however, mostly because he's certain a positive message about the new finish-line facilities will spread by word-of-mouth by 2006.
Plus, it could have been much worse, considering the thunderstorm which raged through Sunday's early hours.
"At 7:30 this morning, I thought I'd have to build the Ark," the race director joked after completing the course. "So I'm definitely happy with the way things turned out."