PRESCOTT — The revered Whiskey Row Marathon celebrates its 40th year Saturday morning, May 5, on the paved streets of downtown Prescott and tree-lined portions of Prescott National Forest with approximately 125 runners racing in the full marathon.
This year’s marathon officially begins at 6 a.m. on Whiskey Row (Montezuma Street west of the courthouse plaza), although some runners may choose to run at the early start time of 5 a.m.
Packet pick-up/late registration for the 2018 races will go from 5 to 7 a.m. Saturday at Matt’s Saloon on Whiskey Row. However, from 3 to 8 p.m. today, May 4, the Prescott YMCA, 750 Whipple St., will play host to an early packet pick-up and Sports Expo. Participants can receive last-minute tips from those who know the course best, meet race sponsors, and get their swag bag, which features a 40th anniversary commemorative race T-shirt.
In addition to the marathon (26.2 miles), Whiskey Row Marathon race director Laura Winniford of the Prescott YMCA said on Wednesday that 450 runners had already registered for the half marathon (13.1 miles, 7 a.m. start), as well as 650 runners for the 10K (6.2 miles, 7:20 a.m.), and close to 300 runners for the 2-mile fun run/walk (7:15 a.m., loop from Montezuma Street to Copper Basin Road and back).
“We’re really looking forward to celebrating 40 years,” Winniford said.
Saturday’s race will force the closure of only two traffic intersections downtown, including Goodwin Street, between Cortez and Montezuma streets, and Montezuma, between Gurley Street and Goodwin, from 5 a.m. to noon.
Runners in the event — the longest continuously run marathon in Arizona and one of the nation’s toughest marathons because of its 3,000 feet of elevation change at mile-high altitude — are expected to travel here from 27 U.S. states as well as Germany, Poland and Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic north of Iran. In Saturday’s full marathon, about 60 percent of the runners are women and 40 percent are men.
The Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies reenactment group and a ladder truck and personnel from Prescott Fire Department will be on-hand to welcome runners at the starting line, as in past years.
“We are right on target for the same amount [of runners as we had in 2017],” added Winniford, who’s in her final year as race director after serving two lengthy stints and will soon give way to new director Rachelle Skvarek.
On the men’s side, Darren Burr of Phoenix, who won the Whiskey Row Marathon each of the past two years, will not compete Saturday due to injury. Winniford said Burr, who finished the 2017 marathon in 2 hours, 56 minutes and 27 seconds, plans to run the marathon in 2019. Peter Davidson of Tucson, last year’s third-place finisher (3:06:37), will be here, though, she added.
Craig Davidson of Phoenix, a past recipient of the marathon’s prestigious annual Al Clark Award, on Saturday will run his 31st Whiskey Row full marathon since the race’s inauguration in 1978.
On the women’s side in the marathon, defending champion Tanaya Gallagher of Sedona, who set the female course record of 3:19:38 in 2013 and who in 2017 came within 1 second of tying her record mark (3:19:39), is back to vie for a repeat crown. Defending runner-up Randi O’Neill of Prescott Valley (formerly Simon), who ran a 3:35:05 last year, returns, too.
In the half marathon, two-time defending champion Adam Folts (1:20:59 in 2017) of Prescott, Embry-Riddle cross-country coach Chris Bray (defending runner-up, 1:21:20) and Embry-Riddle men’s soccer coach Dan Balaguero are runners to keep an eye on, Winniford said.
At the finish line on the south side of the Courthouse Plaza (Goodwin and Cortez streets), massage therapy and free food will be available for marathon and half-marathon runners, as well as expo booths everyone may peruse. Race finishers receive commemorative 40-year anniversary Whiskey Row Marathon medallions with the words “40 Years Running Strong” on the ribbons attached to them. (Race T-shirts have a 40-year medallion-type print with a ’70s retro design on them, too.)
Winniford added that in an homage to the “Best of 1978,” race organizers will conduct a water-station competition, one in which different stations along the race route play period music, including the Village People’s smash hit “Y.M.C.A.”
“They’ll be playing some fun songs and dressing up, maybe, in some ’70s garb, hopefully,” Winniford said. “And we’ll do some photo ops and some Facebook posting. It’s really a recognition competition — it’s not anything else.”
Annette M. Williams Living Trust, one of 60 race sponsors, serves as the 2018 marathon’s primary sponsor. All proceeds from the race support the Prescott YMCA scholarship program, which in 2017 received $66,000 from the marathon to help local children and families.
“We couldn’t do this without the sponsors,” Winniford said.
Winniford also thanked the race’s 170 volunteers, many of whom begin setting up for the race at 3 a.m. Saturday, and the Prescott YMCA’s staffers.
For more information about Saturday’s marathon, visit whiskeyrowmarathon.com.
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.