Maria Dalzot found Bellingham kind of by accident. But it turned out to be one of her favorite discoveries.
Dalzot, 25, is a registered dietician and professional distance runner who grew up in Morgantown W.Va. A couple of years ago, she had a race one weekend in Vancouver, B.C., then a few weeks later another in Seattle. So she picked the place right between the two cities to stay - Bellingham.
"(My boyfriend and I) stayed in Bellingham for three weeks and loved it," Dalzot said in a phone interview. "When I finished grad school, we packed up and moved across the country."
One reason Bellingham appealed to Dalzot was that the landscape was perfect for her distance training. She even called the area a "Mecca" for distance and trail training.
Running has always been a part of Dalzot's life. She recalled that when she was growing up, the only way her mother could get her to go to swim lessons was to let her run a lap around the track first. She ran for West Virginia University for five years and signed with Inov-8, a team of runners with members all over Europe and the United States, after she graduated.
She is one of three sponsored, professional runners who will be running in the Lake Padden Trail Half at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 at Lake Padden.
"I just missed the race when I moved here last year," Dalzot said. "I've been training on the course, and there is nothing easy about it."
The other two professionals in the race are Adam Campell and Mario Mendoza. Dalzot said Mendoza ran a half-marathon in 1 hour, five minutes a few weeks ago and is in great shape for the Lake Padden race. Last year's winner, Dusty Caseria, will be defending his title as well.
Race director Al Coyle, 49, from Bellingham, said the race is raising money for Rebound of Whatcom County.
"We chose Rebound because the kids in the community are important and the community took care of me as a youngster, so I wanted to give back," Coyle said in a phone interview.
Coyle hopes to raise $10,000 from the race and donations. There also is a $500 prize for each the winners of the men's division and the women's division.
Race packet pickup is from 4-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at the Book Fare Café inside Village Books in Bellingham. Dalzot will be giving a talk about nutrition at the pickup.
"I'm kind of focusing on what stands in the way of leading a healthier life and diet, and the role fear and motivation play if you're going to make healthy additions or changes to your diet," Dalzot said.
Her goal for the race is to break Jodee Adams-Moore's record of 1 hour, 30 minutes, 45 seconds for the women, but she added that the time was "screaming fast."
The Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon also includes a 2 kilometer kids' race for runners up to eighth grade. The kids' race, which starts at 8:30 a.m., is hosted by Whatcom Family YMCA Girls on the Run.
Reach Alex Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.
LAKE PADDEN TRAIL HALF
When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19
Site: Lake Padden Park
Signup and information: www.lakepaddentrailhalf.com