Heat is high, but runners still hit downtown Orlando streets for fundraiser

Summer seeped into Central Florida’s spring on Thursday with temperatures in the high 90s in many locations, and 5K runners in downtown Orlando called upon to test their fortitude.

The weather this week is about 10 degrees hotter than normal for this time of year for the region, according to the National Weather Service’s Melbourne office. The high temperature would typically be in the mid-80s.

“We stay in the lower 90s pretty much through our forecast period, which goes out the next seven days, so not really too much relief on the horizon,” meteorologist Cassie Leahy said Thursday afternoon. “As we get into next week, we do have some increasing rain chances, so that might help,” she said.

Orlando flirted with record highs — the record high for May 9, set in 1915, is 98, and many locations were near that mark. But the “official” marks at the city’s two airports, Orlando International and Orlando Executive, hit 96 and 94 respectively. The record high for May 10 in Orlando is also 98, set in 1916.

Soaring temps pushed back the start time of the SimplyIOA Corporate 5K in downtown Orlando into Thursday evening. In addition, the course was also shortened from 3.1 miles to 2.4 miles. Nearly 13,000 participants registered, but organizers said it is unknown many people actually attend because it is an untimed and unscored event.

The temperature in Orlando at the 6:45 p.m. start of the race was in the mid-90s.

“We have the breeze and actually this wind is supposed to pick up a little,” a hopeful Jon Hughes, co-owner of Track Shack, which organizes the event and other Central Florida races, said a few hours before race time.

“We factor everything we can. There doesn’t seem to be any cloud cover,” he said. “But I’ll take the breeze. It’s going to help at least in the shade. … and the humidity is low.”

Hundreds of businesses and organizations form teams — often in matching T-shirts — for the event, which is also a fund-raiser for Second Harvest Food Bank and Track Shack Youth Foundation. Groups and vendors (ice cream, water, cooling towels were “hot” items) occupied tents dotted around Lake Eola.

Darren Hunt, a participant from Orange City, was a little worried about the heat “but I’m a Floridian,” he said before th e run. “It is kind of unusually hot for me. I think it might be a low turnout,” he said. It was his first Corporate 5K in 11 years, he said, alongside 400 co-workers from Advent Health.

Corey Wheeler, Sheila Grant and Lisa Hester, co-workers at Florida Virtual School, said they had put in a month and a half of step preparation for the event.

“It’s a good event to get together because we’re all working virtual,” Hester said.

Hughes said organizers had been cautious about the heat conditions because so many participants were amateura, with many first-timers signing up.

“There’s going to be a lot more walkers today, even those people that haven’t planned to be one,” he said. “But they’re going to come out because … it’s Central Florida’s largest office party, there’s no question about that.”