Somerset Lake's man of the races
● By J. Chambless
Landenberg resident David Berger serves as the race director for several road races in the Landenberg area.
By Richard L. Gaw
Fast-forward to Thanksgiving Eve 2018.
It is Wednesday, November 21, at about seven or eight in the evening, and the kitchen of your home in Landenberg or Avondale or Toughkenamon is filled with the simmering and teasing scent of what's to grace your holiday table tomorrow. Your children are off playing with their cousins somewhere in the home, and your visiting brother or your sister or your parents have popped a good bottle of wine, in preparation for a conversation of family catch up.
Then, at about the time you finish off your second glass of a decent Napa Valley 2010, you look at your brother and our sister and their spouses, all plopped deep into cushioned couches and chairs, and you begin to imagine them all dressed as turkeys.
No, you're not inebriated.
You are merely inspired.
You ask them if they brought their running shoes with them. They all nod, with suspicion.
And, at a little after seven o'clock on Thanksgiving morning, there you are, joined by your siblings and their spouses and your children and nephews and nieces and about 100 other locals at the Somerset Lake clubhouse – some of them dressed as turkeys – stretching in the gray fog of Thanksgiving morning.
Congratulations. You have just indoctrinated more runners into a Landenberg tradition: the annual Wild Turkey 5-Miler around Somerset Lake.
To anyone who has participated in this Road Race of the Absurd in its previous runnings, they have been assured of several things: 1) It's a nice run that takes in the gentle peaks and hills that surround the lake; 2) It's become a family fun run of sorts, where the kids get to participate in something called Grandma's Lost Potatoes, searching for misplaced spuds along the track; 3) it's a guaranteed great post-race hang, with a welcoming party back at the clubhouse that still allows them to get back home by 9 a.m.; 4) they might be up for an award for best costume, youngest or oldest to finish and least dressed; 5) they'll make a donation that will find its way to a charitable organization in the community; and 6) they will get to see race director and fitness coach David Berger – himself a resident of the Somerset Lake community – whose infectious enthusiasm has lit the flame of this annual run since it began eight years ago.
“I began this race because it was taking me too long to get back home from the races that are held on Thanksgiving in Wilmington,” said Berger, a licensed personal trainer who owns Progressive Fitness Coaching. “At the time, my wife wasn't running, so she didn't understand the dynamics of the event, that allowed me to meet my clients and run with them. I'd leave the house a seven in the morning, and I wouldn't get back home until noon or one o'clock.
“When we moved to the Somerset Lake community, I thought, 'This is a beautiful neighborhood. Perhaps we should start a race here.' The development's board was very kind to us, and that's how it started. It's become one of the most laid-back atmospheres for a race that anyone could possibly imagine.”
Over the past several years, Berger has certainly made up for all of those Thanksgiving morning he spent in Wilmington. He has organized and directed several other road races and running activities throughout the Landenberg area. Beginning on April 29 at Kennett Middle School, Berger will begin his fourth year as community organizer for the Healthy Kids Running Series, a five-week running program for children from Pre-K to the 8th grade. The program offers age-appropriate running events including the 50-yard dash, the 75-yard dash, the quarter-mile and the half-mile and the one-mile fun run.
Kids compete each week of the series for a chance to earn points, and at the end of the series, the top boy and girl with the most points in their respective age division receive a trophy. Each runner receives a participation medal and a gift bag.
The program runs on Sunday afternoons beginning at 3 p.m. until May 27, and parents can still sign their children up on the day of the event.
“What I try to emphasize to the parents is that it's more about the participation than it is about athletic achievement,” Berger said. “It allows each child who participates the opportunity measure how much they've improved in running every week.”
Last October, Berger kicked off the first Harvest Running Festival, which took place on the 148-acre Fox Chase Farm in Kemblesville. Advertised as “A Celebration of Human Potential,” over 200 runners participated on 5K and 21K races, on courses USATF-certified by well-known race designer Dick Fitch. They began at the farm and traveled through Franklin and London Britain townships, and included Appleton Road, Elbow Lane, London Tract Road, Indiantown Road, Flint Hill Road, Stricklersville Road, Mt. Olive Road, Cavender Lane and the Geohagen Greenway Trail.
Berger said the idea to host both a road and a trail race was inspired by his entry in the Hyner View Trail Challenge in Hyner, Pa., which sponsors a variety of trail and road races.
“I wanted to create a running festival that celebrated every runner who can run any of these two distances,” he said. “I've been doing trail races and road races for years, and they seem to have a different vibe, because there's a different kind of people who run each race. The post-parties are even different between them, as well. The Hyner Challenge is different, because it draws all types of runners together. I wanted to bring that kind of feel here, in order to merge the trail and the road groups together.”
Post-race activities for each race were held at a barn on the property, that included beverages from the Kennett Brewing Company and Levante Brewing Company, and food from Roots Natural Kitchen in Newark. Additional sponsors will include Altra Running, the Hockessin Athletic Club, Integrative Health Chiropractic Center, Mudgear, Philadelphia Runner, Rip Roarin Productions and the Yards Brewing Company.
“What I've really learned the most from trail running is the feeling of being one with nature,” Berger said. “These races will run past so many preserved lands. It's a stunning course. To me, running in nature is like running in the House of God, and to give runners the same opportunity is the big goal with these races.”
For Berger, organizing the Wild Turkey 5-Miler, the Healthy Kids Running Series and the Harvest Running Festival form a connectivity between local residents.
“It's about something I refer to as 'Run local, give local,'” he said. “It's my way – and the way of so many others who participate in these events – of coming together as a community, and giving back.”
To learn more about these races in the Landenberg community, visit www.runlocalgivelocal.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.