A total of nearly 2,000 runners are expected for the 35th annual running of the popular Whiskey Row Marathon on Saturday morning in downtown Prescott, affirming that the event remains alive and well.
As of last week, 125 runners were registered in the full marathon, although race director Laura Winniford-Hodgins of the Prescott YMCA, who returned to her position last November after a two-year hiatus, said she anticipated that number to climb to anywhere from 185 to 200.
The latter figure reflects the marathon's typical participation range of 150 to 200 runners over the past several years. Runners are allowed to enter up until the morning of race day.
For the Whiskey half marathon, Winniford-Hodgins said some 600 runners should be in the fold, which is about the same figure as in 2012. To gain a bit of perspective, only 280 folks were in the half in 1998.
In the 10K run (about 6.2 miles), the Whiskey is now drawing 800-plus runners per year (and 2013 is no different), whereas in 1998 it pulled in half that amount.
"We're on the same line as far as registrations as we have been," Winniford-Hodgins said of the entire 2013 field, "so we should hit close to the 2,000 mark again."
Many of the Whiskey's registered half marathoners are marathoners who incorporate the half into their overall training.
In recent 10Ks, Winniford-Hodgins said more people have been choosing to walk the course rather than strictly run it.
"Now we have walkers in every one of our races," she said, "but in the 10K we have many people in the over (age) 45 crowd that do a lot of walking, which is great."
Winniford-Hodgins said the marathon field will have a low number of internationals, as only one runner from England and another from Canada are registered.
As for the U.S., at least a good handful of runners are likely to travel to Prescott from Indiana, Michigan, New York and Louisiana, although most will come from the Southwestern states, per usual.
For the locals on the women's side, past champion Heidi Schuette of Prescott, who has participated in the marathon multiple years and still holds the women's Whiskey record time of 3 hours, 21 minutes and 21 seconds (2004), will not run this year. However, Amy Hobson of Prescott, who won in 2011 and took second last year, also will not be competing.
Defending Whiskey women's marathon champion Randi Simon of Prescott Valley is expected to run the half marathon instead of the full marathon on Saturday.
On the men's side as of late last week, Brian Tinder of Flagstaff - the Whiskey's defending men's champ - had not signed up for the 2013 race, although he could still show. Jeff Rome of Prescott, who finished third in 2012, also had not yet committed.
Besides the changes to the marathon field, other minor alterations are in store on Saturday, including the Cinco de Gumbo after-race party. It will feature a craft-beer garden located between Union and Goodwin streets on Cortez Street rather than being stationed in front of downtown businesses.
In addition, the race's finish line will shift to the Courthouse Plaza from the traditional line on the pavement of Cortez.
"We're going to come in from the corner of Goodwin and Cortez, and come in diagonally to the courthouse," she said. "The two grassy areas on either side of the diagonal sidewalk (on the plaza) closer to Goodwin is where we're going to be positioned."
Therefore, as the runners come across, spectators will be able to cheer for them more directly. A total of 4,000 to 5,000 people - a number that includes the runners - should make it downtown on Saturday.
"It's going to be a lot closer and not so spread out," Winniford-Hodgins said of the new finish line. "So the atmosphere's going to be a lot different because people are right there watching everybody finish. In the past, as soon as they were done, they'd leave the finish line."
In addition, she said, construction vehicles will be positioned close to the race site, albeit cordoned off, since the courthouse is in the midst of getting a new roof.
Awards will be distributed to the runners about an hour or so after each race instead of waiting until later in the afternoon as in years past. Every finisher receives a medal, and the overall winners each take home a variety of other prizes.
All of the proceeds from the Whiskey Row Marathon will go back into the community so that area children and families can receive scholarships to afford much-needed services, Winniford-Hodgins added.