“You want to know how hot it was out there?” asked Bridget Pawelczak of Alden after completing the Subaru Buffalo 4-Mile Chase on Friday. “Let me show you.”
She then gave the headband in her hand a good, firm squeeze. With that, a steady stream of liquid fell to the hot pavement below.
It was that sort of night in the Elmwood Village area. The temperatures that were close to 90 degrees made the performances of some world-class athletes that much more remarkable.
Aschalew Neguse of Ethiopia was the men’s winner in 18 minutes, 25 seconds, and Jane Murage of Kenya took the women’s race in 21:16. The times weren’t close to the course records, but it wasn’t a night for records.
The men’s race was noteworthy mostly because of the consistency of the lead pack. Neguse, Julius Koskei and Linus Chumba ran the first mile in 4:39, the second mile in 4:41, and the third mile in 4:38. A couple of blocks into the fourth mile, Neguse decided he had some fuel left in the tank.
The Ethiopian put on a kick that left the rest of the lead pack behind. He ran the final mile in an impressive 4:27. That was good for a 10-second win over Koskei, with Chumba another five seconds back.
“I wanted to go off on my own, but it was really windy,” Neguse said through a translator after the race. “I wasn’t able to break away, so I wait until that last kick.”
Neguse was happy to win the $1,000 first-place prize, but he was a bit disappointed in his performance.
“The race went well, but the weather was very tough,” he said. “If the air had been just a little cooler, my time would have been better. I’m happy to win but I expected to run better.”
Neguse certainly is a worthy champion. He finished in fifth place in the Paris Half-Marathon earlier this year, and was fourth in the Berlin 25-Kilometer race (about 15 miles) in 2012.
On the women’s side, three women were part of one of the closest finishes in recent years. Murage put on a burst in the final yards, and that was good enough to pass her two top rivals and win.
Murage finished in 21:16, while Meseret Tolwak of Ethiopia was second in 21:17, and Almaz Fekade was third, another second behind.
Fekade led for good-sized stretches of the race, but said that she was a little surprised that, in the words of the translator, there was some “foul play” in the form of bumping along the way.
Tolwak said through a translator that she had run in last week’s Boilermaker 15k in Utica, and “This was my first four-miler.” Fekade finished fourth in the Boilermaker.
Murage was unavailable for comment after the race. The performance of the top runners, as usual, left the rest of the field impressed.
“I started in the middle of the field, so I didn’t even really see them,” Leah Andrianos of Syracuse said. Andrianos eventually ran third among American finishers in 24:22.
Murage won the Pikes Peak 10k race and was third in the Broad Street 10-Mile run earlier this year.
Chris Walters of Buffalo, the 2012 News Runner of the Year, finished third among American runners. He came across in 20:20.
“I’m not really happy with the time, but what can you do?” he said. “I haven’t been here the last two years, so it was nice to run against them.”
Joseph Ekuom of Kenya was the men’s masters winner in 20:58, while Michelle LaFleur of Savannah, Ga., took the women’s masters division in 23:18.
The hot weather was no surprise, and the race organizers had plenty of time to make special preparations.
“All of our volunteers at the registration tent told each and every runner to slow down, to take it easy,” race director Jim Nowicki said. “We told them if they didn’t feel comfortable to finish the race, they were free to run down a side street and jump back into the pack – but not to finish the race.
“We had a lot of water on the course, and we had 2,000 bottles waiting for them at the finish. We also had a shower at the end.”
The race’s most poignant moment came at the very end. Dick Sullivan, who will turn 85 next week, hasn’t run much in the past year because of health problems.
He was given bib number 1 on Friday to mark his entry this time. Sullivan, a fixture on the local running scene who has completed 31 Boston Marathons in his career, made it all the way around the course in about an hour and 20 minutes.
When asked if it was better to be out running instead of being in a hospital, he responded with a hearty “damn right!”