PORTLAND – John Peck made a concession to Friday’s record-setting heat.

Peck still got in his running to train for next week’s Peaks Island five-mile race, but he did it by going on the relatively flat track around Back Cove, instead of the hilly road course he normally runs.

With sweat pouring off him and struggling a little to cool down in the Back Cove parking lot, Peck said he’s committed to training for the race and alternates his workouts, with a day spent running followed by a day putting in an hour on an elliptical machine at his home in Cumberland.

It was just bad luck, he said, that his running day came Friday, when the temperature topped out at 95 degrees — a record for July 19 in Portland, beating the old mark by a degree — at the same time he was circling the cove.

At home, “it’s not air-conditioned, but there is a fan,” he said.

The area around Back Cove was unusually empty Friday afternoon. It’s a popular spot for an after-work run, but in Friday’s heat, a lot of people apparently skipped it for a trip to the beach or someplace air-conditioned. It was a day that truly required someone who won’t give up that daily run, no matter what.

Billy Roy of Portland said he runs pretty much every day except during the winter, when he cross-country skis.

He got in his run Friday, but admitted that he circled the cove just once, a 3.5-mile run, which was half of his normal regimen.

“I don’t push myself as hard as I normally do,” Roy said. “I probably slowed down a little bit. It’s pretty hard to breathe.” Lauren Danie, also of Portland, said she decided to carry her water bottle with her as she ran. She also managed to smile and see a bright spot in the haze.

“It’s great training weather,” she said, figuring it would pay off when she runs the Beach to Beacon 10K in a few weeks.

“It’s not so bad,” she said. “You’ve got to be smart about it. I usually don’t take my big water bottle with me and I’m taking breaks,” alternating running with a brisk walking pace.

Eric Mortenson also took the heat in stride.

“I grew up along the beach in New Jersey and this is just how the weather is at the end of July,” said Mortenson, a student at Vermont Law School who is interning in Portland for the summer.

But after a day at the beach, he admitted that he had some second thoughts when he got to Back Cove.

“As I started out, I figured I could have just waited three hours (for it to cool down) and saved myself, but I figured, I’m already here,” he said.

Runners in southern Maine will soon lose at least one excuse for skipping the daily ritual — the National Weather Service said to count on cooler and much less humid weather moving in Sunday.

Michael Cempa, a meteorologist with the weather service, said Saturday will be another hot one, with the temperature hitting around 90 and the humidity remaining high. But a cold front will sweep through the area Saturday night, possibly touching off some thunderstorms.

Sunday will be sunny, but the temperature isn’t expected to rise much above 80 and it will feel noticeably more comfortable with lower humidity. Lows Sunday night, he said, will fall into the 50s and possibly the 40s in northern Maine.

Monday will be about the same, he said, and although temperatures are expected to rise slowly through next week, he said forecasters aren’t looking for a repeat of the heat and humidity that baked southern Maine this week. 

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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