Hot Chocolate 5K Chicago Race Report

This was one of the most fun races I've ever run, maybe THE most fun, for so many reasons.  Being able to go home (here's a quick trip overview) to run the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K felt like such a full-circle moment.  Last year, I became an ambassador for the Seattle race after investigating a trip to Chicago to run a 10 miler (hopefully one day I'll do the Soldier Field race) or a 15K.  As I perused the Hot Chocolate website, I noticed that a Seattle race had been added, and they had opportunities for Chambassadors (chocolate ambassadors).  I immediately contacted them to help spread the chocolate love and get folks in Seattle pumped about our inaugural run for chocolate, which was a super fun race.  And just about one year later, thanks to the folks at RAM Racing, I got my wish to run a race through the city of my heart.  

I would normally start with the expo/packet pickup, but I was lucky enough to have our packets delivered to my hotel - complete with bags of Halloween candy!

fun fleece half zip pullovers for this year's goodie bag

I did, however, grill my friends on how the expo went, because I heard that it was not a very smooth process last year.  From what I gathered, things went off without a hitch, the packet pickup was seamless and they certainly improved upon any problems they had last year.

Speaking of improvements, apparently the wave starts were new this year and runners I talked to (from mid-pack to the super speedy) had no issues with crowding.  I myself decided to switch down to the 5K, as my wonky hamstring has been acting up and my running buddy hadn't been keeping up with long runs lately - she's more of a tri gal, and has even done a half Ironman!  

We decided to just start at the very back of the first wave, chat and just enjoy running our hometown streets.  I did notice plenty of big red signage near the front corrals that said 'no walkers.'  And even though we were in a group that was a few minutes slower than our normal pace, and had a few walkers, we easily passed people when we needed to.  

As for the course, I really would love to do the 15K one day, because the start and finish are fantastic with amazing city views - the same start and finish as the Chicago Marathon.  However, a good chunk of the 5K goes through lower Wacker and it would have been nice to run the longer course that goes through the museum campus and along the lake/Lake Shore Drive.  Plus we felt like the 5K went by SO FAST with all the talking we were doing, that the 15K probably would have felt more like a 5K!  The race also has such a fantastic vibe and energy.  This is something that I could immediately compare to Hot Chocolate in Seattle.  It's like a moving party, everyone is just out for a great time and there's lots of hooting and hollering - just a general feeling of camaraderie.  I loved that they had blown up marshmallows for us to bat around while we waited in the corrals.  

There were lots of grade school age kids with their parents enjoying the race and playing around with the marshmallows as well: a fantastic first 5K for the young and old alike.  They make it very family friendly, including a bouncy house for the wee ones waiting for mom or dad at the finish area.  

The crowd support was also impressive.  In the 5K we passed lots of fun cheer sections: a dj with light show on lower Wacker, the Hot Chocolate RV with cheerleaders, groups giving out 'free hugs' (which we totally took advantage of and I'm so glad I wasn't worried about time), and while we were running through the canyons of the Loop, a group started yelling, "MARCO!" and all the runners would chorus, "POLO!"  So much hilarity and hi jinks.  

After we crossed the timing mats (at a nice and leisurely 36:05!), we were immediately handed bottled water and headed towards the chocolate party.  Again, this was something easily compared to the Seattle race: the chocolate fondue and hot cocoa are deeeelicious.  It's a very easy and streamlined process of getting your treats afterwards.  

The runner reunite area worked out really well, too, so that I was able to easily text with another friend of mine and meet up with her afterwards.

Yes, this is my second year as a Chambassador for Hot Chocolate.  And, yes, they awarded me this trip.  But, truly, I think they put on a FANTASTIC race in Chicago this year.  I would plan future trips home around this race, and I think many people did just that.  What a great way to visit the city.  My hotel was crawling with people going in and out wearing their race swag.  Funny enough, I heard that there were more people that registered for Hot Chocolate than the Chicago Marathon!  An amazing accomplishment for a race that started in 2008 with a local 5K at Montrose Harbor.  I can't wait do do it again in Seattle in March, I hope you'll join me!