Weather forecasters are predicting near-perfect conditions for the 36th annual Prescott YMCA Whiskey Row Marathon this Saturday morning in downtown Prescott, and that has both organizers and runners enthused.
With temperatures expected to reach a high of 78 degrees with virtually no wind and no precipitation, it doesn't get any better for the athletes involved.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 people expect to converge on downtown for the race.
"In the morning, it should be perfect for runners," race director Laura Winniford-Hodgins of the Prescott YMCA said.
The start times for the Whiskey's races will be an hour later this year. The full marathon will begin at 7 a.m., followed by the half marathon at 8, the 2-mile at 8:15 and the 10K at 8:20 because, Winniford-Hodgins said, there are a lot of in-state runners who can't drive to Prescott Friday night due to work or other commitments.
Winniford-Hodgins added that through Wednesday, more than 1,650 runners had registered for the event's races, a figure that is slightly more than the Whiskey typically has at midweek before a marathon.
Women should comprise some 60 percent of the Whiskey's field, while men cover about 40 percent, she said. Runners will come from as far away as Washington state, Florida and Michigan.
For the full marathon, 173 runners had entered through Wednesday. The Whiskey has typically drawn 150 to 200 runners over the past several years.
In the half marathon, at least 520 runners have already entered for a race that can accommodate 600 to 650. For the 10K (6.2 miles), 650 runners have signed up, with more expected. In 2014, there were 750 runners in the 10K.
Defending Whiskey women's marathon champion Tanaya Gallagher of Sedona, whose time of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds established a new course record for the fastest women's time, had yet to register as of late Wednesday.
Max Werner of Flagstaff, the defending Whiskey men's champ who crossed in 2:53:01, also had not signed up for the 2014 race as of Wednesday, Winniford-Hodgins said.
Runners still may register from 3-8 p.m. Friday at the Prescott Y or from 6-8 a.m. Saturday at Matt's Saloon on Whiskey Row.
"We have about 400 to 500 people that register on Friday and Saturday," Winniford-Hodgins added.
The 2014 Whiskey will be run in honor of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill Fire late last June. (The 2-mile has been renamed the 1.9 Hotshot Run). This year's race T-shirt has a subtle tribute to the firefighters.
A small group of women will also be walking Saturday in memory of Yavapai County Superior Court Clerk Sandra K. Markham, who died unexpectedly Sunday night. Markham ran the Whiskey half marathon for years and had signed up for the 10K this weekend, Winniford-Hodgins said.
The marathon will start at The Palace bar and restaurant on Whiskey Row and finish at the Courthouse Plaza. A Prescott Fire Department ladder truck and its crew will hold up the starting line banner, Winniford-Hodgins added.
In addition, at the race's finish line on the courthouse plaza, there will be about 20 expo booths.
To handle the traffic, from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, some downtown streets will be closed.
The two biggest closures are Montezuma Street between Gurley and Cortez streets for the start of the race, and Goodwin Street, between Montezuma and Cortez, for the entire race.
Runner awards will begin to be distributed around 10:15 a.m., Winniford-Hodgins said.
After the race, the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta will take place at the Courthouse Plaza on Montezuma and Gurley streets. Proceeds from that event will benefit Prescott's sister cities.
All of the proceeds from the Whiskey Row Marathon, however, will go back into the community so that area children and families can receive scholarships from the YMCA Scholarship Fund to afford much-needed services.
"We were really fortunate to get some good cash sponsors and a lot of in-kind sponsors to make this event happen," Winniford-Hodgins said.