BISBEE — It finally happened. The 30th running of the Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb took off Saturday morning with all the fanfare, festivities and fabulousness one would expect from this unique race that takes participants through the most beautiful parts of this equally eclectic town.

I say it finally happened, because the 30th would have been celebrated last year if it had not been for that lousy pandemic.

But the one-year hiatus gave organizer Cynthia Conroy more time to get the party together in true Bisbee 1000 fashion. There was music, food galore, drinks, medals for every winner that would put the Olympics to shame and Chamber of Commerce weather.

About 1,500 people gathered in front of the majestic courthouse that towers over Tombstone Canyon, their Bisbee 1000 race numbers pinned to their shirts. Four “corrals” separated the participants. The fastest of the fast, as well as people who registered early, were in the first pen, and the rest of us were in the other three.

Yes, I participated for the first time, in this incredibly challenging course that takes the athletic, the brave and the crazy, up nine staircases — that’s just more than 1,000 steps — and up and down the narrow mountain roads that wind their way through this burgh of just less than 5,000 people.

I’ve always wanted to do the Bisbee 1000. I moved here 2½ years ago from Florida — flat Florida — and I heard all sorts of tales from colleagues at the Herald/Review about the great race. Our photographer, Mark Levy, had done it several times, as had a couple other people at the newspaper.

Honestly, I think once is good enough. This race is not for the faint of heart or knees. But it’s certainly an experience that everyone, if healthy and able, should try at least once.

It was exhilarating when the horn blew and my fellow racers in corral No. 3 began pounding the pavement. I had sworn that I would only walk, but when I saw other people jogging lightly, it was infectious. I did it, too.

The first, second and third staircases were a breeze. At the fourth, I could hear some wheezing and some racers stopping to take a breath. I wanted to push on. But I was really thankful that there were small traffic jams on most of the staircases. That gave me permission to slow down.

Next came Staircase Number Five. I had heard tall tales about this challenging obstacle. It is never-ending. Just when I thought I had reached Nirvana — otherwise known as the road — there were more and more steps. Finally we made it to the top and forged ahead.

I have to say that if it wasn’t for the volunteers with giant foam pointing fingers on their hands yelling, “this way!!” and the warm and friendly people of Bisbee urging us on with smiles, clapping and shouts of, “You got this!” the event would not have been as fun.

People truly went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Some even had small tables with water, beer and snacks to keep us trekking. Some people just stood in their driveways and waved or danced. Others sat in lawn chairs and folding chairs, waving as we strolled through.

The scenery, the mesmerizing Mule Mountains, surrounded us at every turn. There were musicians, as well, playing old rock and folk tunes. At Stairway Number Seven — another doozy — the homeowners had a stereo blaring “Highway to Hell” by the infamous AC/DC. I asked one of them, “Are we dead?”

Finally Stairways Eight and Nine were on the hilly horizon. I guess they were challenging. I really can’t remember. By that point, I was delirious.

My colleague Levy, the photographer, sent me a text urging me on. As I climbed Stairway Number Nine, he was lurking in the shadows with his camera. He took pictures of me dragging my way to the finish.

As I staggered close to the finish line at Higgins Hill Park, Francis Wick, president and CEO of Wick Communications, owner of the Herald/Review, yelled out my name. His encouragement gave me that last push I needed to make it to the end. Thank you, Francis!

I really felt like I had reached heaven! Several volunteers stood in a line handing out nifty medals and a tote bag. There was more music, plenty of healthy snacks and drinks.

The party had just started. But this reporter had to hightail it and get this story written.

Before I left the park, though, I was able to interview two participants who caught my attention, Charlie and Elsa Arellanes of Los Angeles. Both were dressed in full firefighter gear, complete with cumbersome air tanks strapped to their backs. Charlie Arellanes retired from the Los Angeles County Fire Department after serving 31 years. His wife, Elsa, calls herself a “fire wife,” and she runs the Bisbee 1000 in support of her spouse.

“We do races all over,” said Elsa, who had done the Bisbee 1000 six times prior. “We’ve met the greatest people here and we will always come back.”

I walked next to Elsa for a short time on one of the staircases. She was struggling under the weight of the fire gear, but her smile never left her.

Asked whether she ever regretted being on the stairs with the heavy firefighter gear, Elsa Arellanes said she and her husband always race for a cause. Their participation in this event was dedicated to those who suffer with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“We’ve been in many races all over the country,” Charlie said. “This is my sixth time doing the Bisbee 1000.”

Keith Newlon, owner of Pioneer Title, the main sponsor for the Bisbee 1000, lauded Conroy and her army of volunteers for pulling off yet another successful race.

Newlon’s company has donated thousands of dollars to the nonprofit started by Conroy and her partner, Judith Stafford of Bisbee Vogue Inc. The latter has in turn donated thousands of dollars to several charities and organizations in Cochise County for more than three decades.

Newlon told me recently he supports Conroy and the Bisbee 1000 The Great Stairclimb because it’s an event that is just plain good for the community.

“We have people in our company who come as far away as Yuma to participate,” Newlon said. “It gets people out and it also gets people to come and see our towns, our communities. It gets them down to southeastern Arizona. It’s amazing how many people don’t know about this part of Arizona.”

He credited Conroy and her volunteers for keeping the Bisbee 1000 relevant and running for the last 30 years.

“It’s pretty amazing that she (Conroy) has kept it going as long as it has,” Newlon said. “It continues to grow and build, and she does it with mostly volunteers.

“I think the results speak for themselves. She’s got people coming from all over the country and all over the world to Bisbee.”

Indeed, the Bisbee 1000 The Great Stairclimb, will be a day to remember.