AUBURN – Ethan Hemphill felt the stagnant, humid air the moment he got up Sunday morning.

So what did he go and do on this sweltering August morning? Instead of heading to a beach or taking refuge in front of a fan or air conditioner, he laced up his sneakers and ran a 3.1-mile course in the blistering sun, coasting past 352 other dedicated runners in the L/A 5K Bridge Run and Kids Fun Run outside the Rollodrome.

It was that quick for Hemphill on the winding course that runs across several bridges in the Twin Cities.

The 35-year-old Hemphill was back in a flash at the finish line with a winning time of 15 minutes and 52 seconds, coming pretty close to his course record of 15:14, which still stands today.

“It was really very humid. It was a tough day to run hard,” said Hemphill, a Freeport resident who is a project manager for L.L .Bean. “No one runs well in hot, humid weather.”

Despite the soggy air, Hemphill stayed a few steps ahead of second-place finisher Todd Coffin (16:26), of Freeport. Blaine Moore (16:38) and Bill Mariski (16:42), both from Portland, and Josh Dyer (16:49) of Auburn rounded out the top five overall finishers.

While the heat and humidity might have taken the edge off most runners, Tina Meserve, of Livermore, refused to wilt in the hot sun. She was the first woman to cross the line with a time of 18:19, treating herself to a 16th-place finish overall.

“It was hot today, but the heat doesn’t bother me as much as some people,” said Meserve, who is also a cross country coach at Leavitt Area High School in Turner. “I run my own race. I love this race. It’s a great course and a great organization.”

Jessica Hinkley, 17, of Turner, prevailed in the 15- to 19-year-old female category with a time of 22:22. She finished 92nd overall.

“It was a little bit muggy. Nothing I am not used to,” said Hinkley, who competed for the third time in the event.

The heat didn’t deter veteran runners like Lloyd Slocum 74, of Hollis, and 85-year-old Carlton Mendell (46:49), of Windham, from taking a jaunt on the 3.1-mile course. Slocum shrugged off the balmy temperatures and topped his age group (70-99) with time of 22:57, allowing him to finish in 102nd place.

“It (heat) bothers everybody,” said Slocum. “It slows you down.”

“I’ve run 24-hour races when it is has been 110 degrees,” added a vibrant Mendell, who wore bib No. 1.

A community event

After nine years, the 5-kilometer event has taken hold in the Twin Cities. Many runners take to the course because the race has become popular in the area.

“It was a hot day, but this was a decent running day,” said Dyer, who has made a full recovery from a back injury that prevented him from competing for two years. “I always run this race because it is a community race.

“People come here from all different talents and just go.”

Paul LaBonte, 50, of Auburn ignored the heat and tried to improve his personal best time.

“My goal was 36 minutes, and I did it in 35:32. I am very happy,” he said.

Lewiston native and Cumberland resident David Jacques (28:43) thought the course and crossing bridges with daughter, Melissa, 13, gave him a new perspective on his former community.

“The whole thing was awesome,” said the 45-year-old. “It was a nice atmosphere. It was nostalgic to run the bridges.”

The race’s founder and director Mike Lecompte said it is no easy task organizing the competition each year, which saw its largest turnout ever in its nine-year history.

“This year, we had extremely wonderful volunteers,” said Lecompte. “Without volunteers, I couldn’t pull this off.

“Every year, I need to get more and more volunteers. Every year, it seems to grow.”

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