Run for the Diamonds 9 Mile race, Berwick, PA

I was looking forward to this 9 mile race in Berwick, Pennsylvania with 1500 or so runners. It’s been going since 1908, always on Thanksgiving, and for a long time it was called the Berwick Marathon, apparently because one year the organiser noticed that this was the name given to important races!

It was cold, just above zero at breakfast time and I was in a real dilemma what to wear: I thought I should wear shorts because I get hot so easily and the photos from prior years showed many runners in shorts, but I spoke to some people at breakfast who thought it was colder this year and that most runners would wear tights. I decided on shorts and my calf sleeves. But when I got to Berwick and walked around a bit I decided to change into knee-length leggings and no calf sleeves.

We got going in the main street at 10.30. I wore my sweatshirt until the last minute and left it on the step outside a shop, not expecting to see it again, but it was waiting for me after I finished. The route was crowded at first and flat for the first mile. I was waiting for the hill I had heard about but we started with a downhill.

After a mile we started climbing. It was gradual at first but many in the field slowed down or walked. I liked the grade and even when it got steeper I was enjoying the run. I hadn’t run a step since the JFK last Saturday. I felt early on that I had made the wrong clothing choice as I warmed up quickly but later on I was glad of my leggings. It wasn’t much above freezing but it was a lovely clear day. I took off my beanie and gloves after only a few miles. We were out in rural Pennsylvania where everything looked wintry. Farmhouses, trees, horses, ponds and hills. There were loads of spectators, all very enthusiastically wishing us Happy Thanksgiving, and many were already drinking beer.

The climb was fun because it didn’t get too steep. Just before the top was a short sharp downhill; I wanted to ask someone near me if we had passed the top but I didn’t, and we hadn’t. But the top came soon, at mile 5, and the downhill was great: gradual and winding. I had expected lots of runners to pass me on the way down but this didn’t happen.

We came back into town and I could see the stop light which heralded the finish line from some way away. There had been a clock at the 8 mile marker and based on this I hoped to beat 85 minutes; initially I had hoped to beat 90 minutes but I saw from the clock I was doing better than I had anticipated. So I picked up my pace and I passed some people I had been following the whole way. 

The finish line announcer was staying at my hotel and I had been chatting to him at breakfast, so when he called out my name he gave me a special mention as Australian. I finished in 85:03 on the clock but this came down to 84:43 for chip time (I had started quite far back, which was also why I had been able to pass people) so I was satisfied. Unfortunately I only got 4th in my age group which meant no award - the younger age groups had awards five deep but mine only went to three. They gave us pizza at the finish.


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