The Chuckanut Foot Race has crafted an identity since its inaugural run in 1973, one that mirrors the community from which it was created.
And in its 46th edition, it looks to in no way depart from the eco-friendly traditions that have made it a source of pride for the running community in Bellingham.
"We have historically been a green race," race coordinator Kelly Krieger said in a phone interview, noting that she has no intention of abandoning that signature influence.
The 46th Annual Chuckanut Foot Race starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Marine Park in Fairhaven. Registration opens at 7 a.m. the morning of the race, and runs through 8:30 a.m. Keeping true to tradition, the seven-mile Interurban Trail will take runners from Marine Park through the Chuckanut Mountains, ultimately ending at Larrabee State Park. The course is exactly as it was last year, Krieger said.
Although there is no imminent change in philosophy on the horizon, Krieger has used the year layover to bring the whole green thing up a notch.
Aside from not handing out any paper or plastic materials, Krieger will employ the incentive of a new "Green Award" for those who forgo the bus trip back to Marine Park after finishing the seven-mile trek.
The award - a green, metal water bottle with the words, "I went 14 and Green" on it - is handed out to the first 200 runners who run or walk back to Marine Park following the seven-mile run to Larrabee.
"We're getting (greener) every year, and this is one way we can help to make it greener, by offering (less) bus transportation," Krieger said.
The annual race offered a similar experience last year, minus the reward, and people gravitated toward it, Krieger said.
"I'm amazed," she said of people willing to run the extra seven miles back to Marine Park. "It has really taken me aback by how many are excited to do it. It is quite an undertaking, and I am really excited to see it. ... It has become a part of the identity of the race, and people are embracing it."
Krieger expects 800-1,000 participants this year, up from the 700 participants last year, and believes there will be no shortage of people willing to forgo the bus trip back.
But not lost in the efforts to go more green is the race itself. Last year, WWU grad Blake Medhaug won with a time of 37 minutes and 51 seconds, nearly 34 seconds faster than second-place finisher Jonathan Marcus.
Medhaug is returning to run the race again this year, and while his competitive nature never dulls his instinct to win, coming back to Bellingham is more rewarding than the race itself, he said.
"It's just a good opportunity for me to be able to come back to Bellingham for a week and get in a good race," Medhaug said in phone interview. "(I've) done a lot of running in my five years up there, and I'm coming back to relive the old times."
Old times or not, he still expects to finish somewhere near the top, if not first.
"I am looking forward to doing it, but I am mostly looking forward to working on my race tactics," he said. "I (want) to run with that lead group, and I will be able to separate myself in the second half of the race."
Being an outdoor trail, the flat composition of the Interurban allows for a wealth of diverse participants, Kriege said. The range is vast, from those like Medhaug who look to win, and those like Corrinna Lofland, who look to simply enjoy the experience of a beautiful course.
Lofland, who will be running the Chuckanut Foot Race for the first time Saturday, has decided bypassing the bus ride in favor of tradition is the best avenue for her first go-around.
"Being on the Interurban trail is beautiful," Lofland said in a phone interview. "It's peaceful, and that is the part I'm looking forward to."
While specifics about the trail eluded Lofland, the entire atmosphere is what excites her, from the canopy of trees above to that suffocates all but a few gleams of sunlight to the view of the San Juan's flowing along the trail.
"I guess I don't have a favorite, I'm just looking forward to it," she added.
CHUCKANUT FOOT RACE
When: Race starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 13.
Where: Marine Park
Day of registration: 7-8:30 a.m. at Marine Park.