His earbuds still connected, his shirt still damp, Vernon McDonald pressed his face into a misting fan near the finish line.
“It’s bad out there,” he said. “Oh man. I’ve never ran in heat like this before.”
And so McDonald, a 27-year-old Bogota resident, joined a cluster of athletes who took turns hunched in front of that fan.
On a warm Saturday morning, a morning made warmer by the jet-black airport runway, 968 athletes turned out for the 14th annual Teterboro Airport 5K. Unique to Jersey racing, its course offers participants the opportunity to take off down a runway and loop the airport’s perimeter, before they return to cool off at the Jet Aviation hangar.
“And it’s flat,” said 22-year-old Rob Nihen of Glen Rock, “so you’ve got to run fast even with the heat.”
Nihen finished second on the men’s side, part of the pack that spent the morning chasing Derese Deniboba of Ethiopia. Deniboba won in wire-to-wire style, breezing across the line in 15:07 for his third victory here (2007, 2009). Muliye Gurmu, of the Bronx, took the women’s crown in 17:57.
While runners were bemoaning the heat, organizers were celebrating the turnout. The race benefits Bergen County’s United Way and the organization’s 2-1-1 hotline. The 24-hour hotline is available for New Jersey residents who need assistance with housing, electricity, drug and alcohol treatment, grief counseling and a host of other issues.
“We get those calls daily,” said Cheryl Moses, director of development for Bergen County’s United Way. “And this is how we help.”
Moses said the race has raised over $400,000 during the past 13 years. People keep coming back to this race, drawn by the novelty of running on a runway.
“You’re kind of looking around there, waiting for a plane to come,” joked Jennifer Malavolta, of Reeders, Pa., the second-place finisher on the women’s side.
Sharon Colchamiro, a 49-year-old Tenafly woman, made it a family event, running the race with her 14-year-old daughter Emma and 12-year-old son Evan.
“We always try and beat our own times,” Colchamiro said.
She turned to Evan.
“Did you beat your own time?” she asked.
Evan did. He had a water bottle in his hand.
Now he was trying to beat the heat.