TURKEY AND DIAMONDS:
BY LAURIE CORBIN
BERWICK, PA--Every Thanksgiving morning runners from as far away as Canada line up on Market Street to run one of the most challenging courses on the East Coast: The Run for the Diamonds.
Why not run a 5K someplace then get on with the turkey? Because this race dangles seven sparkling carrots at its finish line diamonds. The top seven male finishers go home with diamond rings and the top seven female finishers with diamond pendants.
Along with its glittering prizes, the race is steeped in tradition. The circuitous nine-mile loop, is unchanged since it was first carved out by three friends back in 1908. Though the entire course presents a huge challenge, it's best noted for the grueling, two-mile mountain runners must surmount early in the race between miles two and four. "That's the make or break point," said winner Buck Jones. "The course was absolutely brutal, but definitely worth it."
Jones traveled all the way from Columbus, Ohio for the race. "I just moved to Columbus from Seattle," he said. "I looked on the internet and saw the race and figured a race that offered diamonds had to be competitive." So Buck packed up his wife and baby daughter, Carmen, and drove seven-plus hours to Berwick.
About ten runners formed the lead pack that bolted up Market Street and through the first mile in a blistering sub-5:00 pace. As the hill approached, two took the lead. "The guy in front of me did the work up the hill," said Jones. When they hit the top, the 33-year-old Jones took over and, despite a steady rain, hammered it home in 44:56.
On the women's side, Kristina Lauberstein was the winner in 52:21. The 24-year-old West Chester, PA resident hasn't raced much, but when she has, it's been something to see. Lauberstein's last big race was the Parkersburg Half-Marathon, the U.S. Half Championship, held in August. "I've just been training since then," she said. "A friend of mine encouraged me to come to the race I'm glad I did!"
Thanks to Dinny Noonan, the race starts with incredible pomp and circumstance. When the MC finishes the thank yous and puts the race in Noonan's hands, all eyes and ears are upon him. He begins with a warning "If I see ONE foot cross over that line " Then instructs "You'll hear 'READY' then 'BANG.'" His arm goes up and in an instant, you're off and running.
Despite the rain, several thousand spectators formed a Thanksgiving cornucopia of color with their umbrellas along the route. Spectator hot spots included the top of the big hill, and around the five-mile mark, where there is a sharp downhill and runners tend to unleash some strategy and some speed. Spectators are several rows thick along the finish on Market Street.
The runners themselves made up more intrigue. One guy pulled me up the hill. Actually, his shirt pulled me up the hill. It said, "Run hard or go home." There was one runner whose long beard made him look like one of the lead singers in ZZ Top and another runner died his hair bright red. Two others ran the entire nine miles wearing Pilgrim Hats.
As for me, well, this was my first Run for the Diamonds and I missed top seven (and consequently a diamond) by 23 seconds! Don't get me wrong, the plaques for top 8th, 9th, and 10th place are fantastic, but "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," and you can be sure I'll be back in Berwick next Thanksgiving to go for a rock!