2013 Hot Chocolate 5K Race Review–Chicago Edition


I must say that after last year’s Hot Chocolate 5K/15K debacle at packet pickup and then a very unorganized, overcrowded race, I did not plan to go back this year.  I have a little bit of history with this race.  In 2011, it was great.  I ran a fast 15K thru the streets of Chicago and was super happy with both the race itself and the Ghirardelli’s Chocolate sponsorship, which brought us handfuls of amazing chocolate.  Then in 2012, Ghirardelli’s noticeably dropped from the sponsor list and things changed.  The first thing is that there was a lot less chocolate to be had.   The second, packet pick-up was moved from Union Station to a heated tent in the Soldiers Field parking lot.  Downfall, not many people could fit in the tent and organizers were very unprepared for the crowds.  Result, hundreds of people standing out in the cold for hours on end “waiting” to pick up their packets.  Race day didn’t improve much.  The course was super crowded and management was not properly prepared to keep the runners flowing thru the start.  Therefore, the start was extremely backed up and I witnessed a lot of unhappy people.  It was even “rumored” that some of the runners like myself may have ran more than one time due to the fact that our friends were stuck in the start corrals for hours awaiting their own race.  It was total mess.  One which I was not prepared to repeat for 2013.  

Then Miss Abygayl heard thru the grapevine that the Hot Chocolate was back in town. 

aby_nov 2013  aby running_Sept 2013

And she wanted to run.  Really badly.  And she begged and begged and begged until I gave in and said we would run.  I mean, if the girl wants to run, who am I to say no.  #RunNerdInTheMaking

I registered us without any expectations.  However, I happily noticed that packet pickup was moved to McCormick place and turned into a 3 day extravaganza.  After the Race of the Dead 5K on Saturday, Nicki & I took the kids over to packet pick up and went very smoothly AND it was fun! 

Ronald McDonald made an appearance for RMHC!  There were some chocolate squares handed out, mini Hot Chocolate samples, marshmallows & chocolate fondue.  Bounce houses & games for the kids.  SMOOTH & EFFICIENT packet pick-up with hoodie exchange for different sizes. 

Hot Choc_2013_Ronald McDonald

Plus a few vendors for us to do some shopping!  At this point, most of you know that I run a lot of races.  So I normally don’t shop at the expo unless it a big one like the Shamrock Shuffle or the Chicago Marathon.  The only race gear that I’ve ever purchased is Chicago Marathon gear.  However, I was very surprised that the Hot Chocolate race had lots of chocolate themed gear at a very reasonable price.  For example, the long sleeve tech shirts were $24.99.  I would normally pay $45 to $65 for a LS tech shirt.  Full zip jackets were around $45.  Then tees for the kids.  Aby even found a pair of pajama pants that she “had to have”.  So everyone came home with something “chocolaty”.  Michael and I now have shirts that say, “chocolate made me do it”.  Fuzzy photo alert, see our new gear below but don’t blow this one up or it will hurt your eyes.  Smile   

Hot Choc_2013_choc made me do it

The swag was really great this year too.  They went to a half zip tech hoodie with embroidery and a back zippered pocket to up the quality factor.  Nice piece of gear that I actually will probably wear.  Aby is modeling hers below.  Plus a drawstring backpack too.

Hot Choc_2013_swag sweatshirt  Hot Choc_2013_swag sweatshirt back Hot Choc_2013_swag bag

Race day moved much more smoothly too despite a massive back-up on the Dan Ryan which caused most of us to be late.  Aby and I ran from the car to the bathrooms {no lines, thank you!!!!} to the start.  We slipped into the first wave right as they were closing the gates.  Then we jogged to A corral and got in without much time to waste. 

Hot Choc_2013_me & Aby  Hot Choc_2013_start

The start was right on time at 7am and we all moved up quickly in an organized fashion.  Since we were already in A corral, we didn’t push to the front assuming that everyone in our corral would be running “faster”.  Not necessarily the case.  We were sandwiched in and obviously a lot of the 15K runners were being conservative at the start.  We didn’t have enough time to be conservative so did quite a bit of weaving in that first mile to try to get thru traffic and also find our own rhythm.  It was much different, and even more difficult than the day before; however, because we were weaving together and trying to stay together so I was constantly watching our positions and trying to find a hole big enough for two or a spot where we could split around one solo person.  Very interesting trying to run a faster pace with a buddy.  Plus, it was supposed to be fun so we ran a comfortably hard pace when we were able but stayed very controlled and managed to stay together at the same time.  Of course, Aby was very disappointed with my slow crawl up “Mount Roosevelt” as well as the fact that I lost my finish kick years ago; however, she was kind enough to stay with me to til the very end.  We finished a few seconds over 24 minutes.  Decent run considering the crowds.

The course this year was much better too.  Nice street route for the entire 5K.   The 15K was mostly on the streets til the end when they were rerouted onto the lakefront path.  Good run.  I wish there was a way to space things out a bit more but it’s hard to get 20,000+ people thru the start.  Fun time and well, for this race, most of us really just came for the chocolate.  At least we did!  Everyone received a finishers mug with hot chocolate, a banana, rice crispy treat, marshmallow, wafers & a bag of mini pretzels.  Fun and delicious!   Tip, take a gallon zip lock to the race to pack up the finishers mug when you leave cuz it’s chocolaty & messy!!

Hot Choc_2013_me & Aby & Nicki   Hot Choc_2013_choc

According to Aby, we WILL be running the Hot Chocolate race again in 2014 so maybe I’ll see you there! 

** We Run For Chocolate ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **