Can you name a local historic event that unites seasoned marathon runners from across the globe, moms with their babies in strollers, seniors who enjoy an opportunity to get involved in their community, and just about everyone in between? You’d be hard pressed to name any other event that fits the bill quite like Prescott’s Whiskey Row Marathon. Now in its 43rd year, the annual event, hosted by the James Family Prescott YMCA and sponsored by Dignity Health – Yavapai Regional Medical Center, is a true community effort, with something for everyone.
“The Whiskey Row Marathon is our largest event fundraiser each year. We typically have 1,500 to 2,000 runners,” says Damon Olsen, CEO of the James Family Prescott YMCA. “The funds raised go straight back into our programs that support youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Thanks in great part to the marathon, we can offer scholarships so that we don’t have to turn anyone away from the YMCA for inability to pay.”
The scholarship program allows children and families in financial need to participate in childcare, swimming lessons, youth sports and gymnastics classes.
“This year’s marathon is one of the most important races we’ve ever held,” says Jaime DeJoseph, Sports Director and Race Director for the Whiskey Row Marathon at the James Family Prescott YMCA. “So many people have been stuck inside for 18 months. It will be nice for people to get out and run in our beautiful forest. It’s so green right now because of all the rain we’ve had. The physical, emotional and mental benefits are more important than ever.”
The Whiskey Row Marathon is known by runners as a difficult course. Olsen explains why. “It’s considered to be one of hardest marathons in the country. It’s not a race that people shatter records on because it is so rugged. The altitude change is from a mile high, or 5400 feet at the start, to an altitude of 7,000 feet in hills surrounding Prescott. Quite a challenge.”
However, he is quick to add that this shouldn’t deter anyone from participating.
“You certainly don’t have to be a well-oiled machine to be a part of the Whiskey Row Marathon. Of course, there’s the marathon and half marathon. But there’s also the 10K, 5K and .3 Mile Family Dash. You can come out and volunteer. Help your community out. It’s typically a beautiful day, you get to meet a lot of people and do something that’s healthy for your mind and body.”
In fact, hundreds of volunteers step up each year to make the marathon possible. Opportunities include giving directions to participants, working at the water stations, facilitating the packet pick up the night before the race, and setting up at 4 AM the day of the race.
“We could not do what we do without our volunteers,” states DeJoseph.
Traditionally scheduled during the first weekend in May, the marathon was moved to October 9th this year due to COVID-19 closures. In addition, the finish line will be at the Prescott Mile High Middle School field, as the County will be in the process of their annual aeration of the grass on the Courthouse Square, which is where the race typically ends. The new course maps and course descriptions are on the Whiskey Row Marathon website at www.whiskeyrowmarathon.com.
Many are wondering if the marathon will move back to May next year, or stay in October.
“That’s one of the biggest questions we’re getting this year,” says DeJoseph. “Our plan is to evaluate the October event after we’re finished. We’ll look at things like the weather and the turnout, among other things. We also plan to conduct a survey to see what our participants think.”
Dignity Health – Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) is once again the signature sponsor of the Whiskey Row Marathon. Both YRMC and the YMCA are dedicated to the health and well-being of our citizens, which makes it a natural fit.
“The YMCA and YRMC have been neighbors a long time – since 1974,” says Olsen. “We have always had a great working relationship, especially in relation to the marathon.”
“And this really comes from the heart,” he continues. “Last year, we had to hold the marathon as a virtual event. Runners ran on their own and sent in their times. Yet without hesitation, YRMC still wanted to step up as the signature sponsor of our event. They truly believe in what we do for our community. We really appreciate that.”
You can learn more about the Whiskey Row Marathon, register for the race or sign up as a volunteer at www.whiskeyrowmarathon.com.