Prescott’s 44th Annual Whiskey Row Marathon is fast approaching, and Damon Olsen, the Director of the James Family Prescott YMCA, is happier than ever about the outlook at the Y.

“The Prescott YMCA has a long standing tradition of 50 years of service in our community,” says Olsen. “An organization like ours never wants to be considered a best kept secret. And we are definitely not. Either you were, you are, or you’re going to be a member at the Prescott YMCA.”

“It’s so good to see people back at the Y,” he continues. “Attendance at our youth programs in particular has been overwhelming. There are actually more kids in flag football than before COVID. We’re starting a new 3-on-3 basketball program as well. We have a multitude of sports-specific camps through our partnerships with Yavapai College and Prescott Unified School District. And membership keeps climbing too. We are now at about 90% of our pre-COVID numbers.”

Additional ongoing programming includes swim classes, drowning prevention classes, after school care, sports, and summer day care. Hence, the proceeds from this year’s marathon are more important than ever.

“The Whiskey Row Marathon is our largest event fundraiser each year. Thanks to the marathon and our other fundraising efforts, we don’t turn anyone away for inability to pay,” Olsen explains. “We can meet people halfway or even more. Inability to pay is not a barrier for people who want to come to the YMCA.”

Olsen is particularly excited about some changes at this year’s October 8th event.

“Last year was the first year we held the race at a different time of year – October instead of May. We sent a survey out afterward, and the response was overwhelming to keep it in October, so that’s what we’ve done,” he says. “Summer is over, people have settled into school mode, and they seem to really like it in the Fall.”

The race also introduced another option for runners in 2021 that was so successful, it’s been included in the 2022 lineup.

“We introduced a 5K last year, and it was very well received,” explains Olsen. “We were hoping it would be a nice introduction to running in Prescott for those who weren’t ready to run a 10K, and we were right. We heard several people say that they’re ready to do the 10K this year after running the 5K last year.”

Regardless of your running ability, getting out there and enjoying the day is highly encouraged.

“Last year when I was helping out at registration, some people were hesitant to sign up because they don’t consider themselves runners,” says Lexi Mullins, Assistant Race Director. “I want people to know that we have the .3 Mile High Fun Run, or you can just walk the 5K or 10K. You will be so glad you did!”

The Whiskey Row Marathon holds the distinction of being the longest continuously running marathon in Arizona. Olsen says that the event’s popularity is not only a result of the challenging course.

“Our altitude and terrain make the Whiskey Row Marathon one of the most difficult races in the U.S., and runners love a challenge,” Olsen says. “But I think another reason people keep coming back is that they just love coming to Prescott. They make a weekend out of it. They come for the race, but also to take in our beautiful weather, do a little sightseeing and enjoy some great meals while they’re here.”

Prescott YMCA Sports Director and Whiskey Row Marathon Race Director Jaime DeJoseph is a very busy person this time of year, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Our focus is youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Bottom line is, we’re here for the community,” says DeJoseph. “The Y is about fitness but it’s also about mental health. That ‘healthy living’ component means mental health as well. The Y is a place to come and be with others, a place to belong. That’s my favorite part of being here – promoting health. Seeing our members, including the kids, happy and successful while participating in our community is so rewarding.”

DeJoseph describes a variety of ways that even non-runners can get involved in this signature Prescott event.

“We love our volunteers and couldn’t do any of this without them. There are so many ways you can get involved,” she says. “We have volunteer opportunities at our water stations, the refreshment garden or directing traffic. The day before the race, we need people to help distribute packets, T shirts and bags at the YMCA. Then of course, there’s set up at 4 AM on Saturday and the tear down when it’s all finished.”

“Support also comes in the form of sponsorships,” says DeJoseph. “Our sponsors, including Dignity Health, YRMC are amazing. Some of our sponsors have been with us for years now, and we have quite a few new ones as well. It’s truly a team effort.”

Dignity Health YRMC is once again our Presenting Sponsor,” adds Olsen. “They have shown us so much support over the years. We’re so fortunate to have them as neighbors, right across the street. We’re thankful they’re there.”

For more information about the Whiskey Row Marathon, including the schedule, the race route, online race registration, a list of volunteer opportunities, and online volunteer registration, visit whiskeyrowmarathon.com.