This was an inspiration of seeing a dining room table in Fine Woodworking that had narrow strips of contrasting woods. I already had a dining room table, so decided to make this addition to ours. My wife never heard of a wooden table runner, but adapted to using this one. The center is thick sliced Morado veneer over a 1/2" mdf substrate. The Morado was booked matched in both directions, taken from a single piece of 3" wide Morado. Everything else is solid pieces. The checker board pieces are constructed, and then glued to the wood strips in between them. That assembly is then tenoned and glued to the main body.
Finish: Poly Initially tried clear lacquer; ultimately went to poly for protection. People put glasses on it.