Lake Padden Trail Half selected as 2014 National Championship


20 Padden Trail Half Marathon

Mario Mendoza, of Bend, Ore., runs alone ahead of other runners as he competes in the 2013 Lake Padden Trail Half Marathon on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 in Bellingham. Mendoza won the event.


"It's for the kids. What we do is all for the kids."

That was the phrase said dozens of times by Al Coyle and Tad Davis, the race directors for the Lake Padden Trail Half.

The duo are now the proud directors of the 2014 USA Track and Field National Championship for the trail half-marathon, but the money they raise for the Rebound of Whatcom County was the inspiring force behind the efforts.

Coyle has been putting on the race for the past three years, and with a growing following, he aimed his sights a bit higher. He brought in Davis, who has connections within the USATF, to help bring the national championship to Bellingham.

"This is the most prestigious race to ever come to Bellingham," Coyle said. "Elite athletes will be coming from all over the country. Some of these runners are the best in the world."

And with Bellingham being such a hot bed for runners, it's a great opportunity for local athletes to connect with the greats, which includes Mario Mendoza, the 2011 10k national champion. Mendoza won the race last year, but Coyle says the best thing about trail running is the humble nature of the sport, even among the best.

"After he won the race, he came up and said 'What can I do to help?'" Coyle said. "This is a professional and he's asking how he can help us."

Davis even saw local runners going up and talking with Mendoza after the race.

"He's just one of the people at the race," Davis said. "People get to line up at the start with him and they get to cross the same finish line as him. You don't need to be elite to have a good time."

The Northwest is a hotbed for running, but with an event this large Davis and Coyle are hoping to make Bellingham just as popular.

"It's a great location for a race this big," Davis said. "It's close enough to Seattle where we can fly in athletes to Sea-Tac Airport and get them here quickly."

The 70 volunteers the event had last year showed the support from the community and was a big reason the USATF chose to come here, Davis said.

"They usually have to fly out their own volunteers, so it helps we have already have the support," Davis said.

The Lake Padden Trail Half relies on sponsors and volunteers to run smoothly. Without sponsors, the race would have to dedicate entry fees to funding the race and the $4,000 total purse, including a top prize of $750. But Coyle and Davis hope to have all the entry fees go back to the youth of Whatcom County.

"We're doing it in the name of the kids," Coyle said. "The emotionally and physically abused kids, the kids living in poverty. This is our way of giving back to the community.

"I grew up here and started running here and this community has given so much to me. Now it's my turn to give back."

With an estimated 300 runners coming to Bellingham on Oct. 18, Coyle and Davis have certainly done their share of giving back.

And it's all to help Whatcom County youth.

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