Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will Run for Chocolate! - Week 2 (January 6-13, 2013)

Every now and then I enjoy doing "fun" races - basically races with a fun theme that I just go and do for pure enjoyment (vs. focusing on my time).  Running "fun" races from time to time allows me to really focus on why I do what I do - because I enjoy it!  These are great opportunity for me to do things such as run in costumes and just let loose. 

A lot of these races have themes which end up bringing a lot of participants ranging from serious/experienced runners to families walking their first 5K together.  Many of the "fun" races tend to benefit children's charities such as Children's Healthcare of Atlanta or Ronald McDonald House (as the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K did).  I always try to do races that support causes that I support, so the benefiting charity being Ronald McDonald House was a bonus!

Several years ago I heard about a 15K/5K that provided runners with hot chocolate & fondue at the finish as well as had jackets for all participants (vs. the typical t-shirt that you receive at races).  I kept reading about this race which was only available in a handful of cities and was even considering going to DC to run this race.  In early spring 2012, I found out that Hot Chocolate 15K/5K was finally heading to Atlanta!  I registered for this race on July 1, 2012 and after 6 months of waiting, it was finally my turn to run for chocolate!

With that said, I present to you: Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Atlanta!

The Expo (January 12, 2013):

The Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Atlanta had about 17,000 participants which is definitely a larger race.  People were traveling from all over the southeast (and beyond) to take part in the inaugural Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Atlanta.  As with most large races, there was no race day packet pick-up available.  In order to pick up your bib and hoodie, participants had to go to the expo held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta (or have someone go for them).  The expo was held on Friday and Saturday before the race. 

As you entered the expo, you were first directed to bib pick-up.  There were two different lines for pick-up (one for 5K and another for 15K).  It took maybe 3 minutes total for us to get our bibs.  The volunteer scanned your registration confirmation or looked up your confirmation with your ID.  

You were then assigned a bib number and assigned a corral (based on your estimated pace entered at registration).  The corrals are used to organize runners by the pace they will run the race in and to release a controlled number of runners at a time.  5K corrals ranged from A-G and 15K corrals ranged from I-N.  I received a corral D assignment and mom received corral F.  

After receiving your bib, you were then directed to the Goodie Bag Pick-Up area where you received a reusable drawstring bag, final race instructions, and the coveted HOODIE!  Next to the Goodie Bag Pick-Up was a "hoodie swap" where you could try on samples of the hoodies and swap for a different size if needed. Kuddos to RAM Racing for thinking this through because by having samples out to try on, the next person to receive a hoodie will receive a new one (not one that was tried on).

After getting your goodies, you were free to wonder around the expo.  This was a VERY small expo.  The biggest part of the expo was the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K merchandise area.  There, you were able to purchase official merchandise with the race logo as well as "Will Run for Chocolate."  Items for sale included shirts, jackets, gloves, hats, and headbands.  The items there were not crazy priced like a lot of races which was nice.

Other than the merchandise area, the vendors were slim.  Big Peach Running Company had a booth set up with a TON of clearance items.  I got a pair of Nike shorts for $12 which is an excellent deal!  I actually ended up wearing them for the 5K.  Another vendor was the Georgia Publix Marathon & Half Marathon.  I am already signed up to run this half marathon but I stopped by to say hello to the workers.  I was very excited when I stopped by their booth because they had the medals that will be handed out.  The race will be held on St Patrick's Day this year, so they decided to give the medals a "luck of the Irish" look.  Both medals have the same sparkling clover design, just the marathon one is obviously slightly bigger and the ribbon color is different.  If you are looking for a good half marathon to do this spring, you might want to look into this one (  It is a fairly challenging course (it is held in Atlanta so you know it will be hilly).  Note: the shirt shown in the picture is NOT the race shirt - this is a training shirt used for promotions.

My favorite part of the expo was the chocolate table!  You can't have a Hot Chocolate 15K/5K expo without chocolate!  There you could sample the chocolate that would be waiting for you at the finish line as well as hot chocolate.  Yummmmm!

After mom and I were done exploring the expo, we volunteered at the expo.  We were assigned to the bib distribution area.  All of the volunteers were amazing and had so much energy which made the shift go by so quickly.  Runners were getting their bibs very quickly and moving on to other parts of the expo with little to no wait.

As a thank you for our time we were given the volunteer shirts (which you wore during your shift).  Without volunteers, races would not be possible.  From the volunteers that distribute bibs to those who distribute water on the course to those that prepare/distribute post race food, volunteers can either make or break a race.  I have volunteered at other races previously and I strongly encourage runners/walkers to volunteer from time to time to experience what things are like on the other side of the race as well as help give back to the running community.

Expo Positives:
LOVE the hoodie
Hoodie swap area
Great volunteers
Decent priced & nice merchandise

Expo Cons:
Very limited number of vendors

Overall expo rating: A

Hot Chocolate 5K (January 13, 2013):

Hot Chocolate 15/5K communicated via Facebook message and email prior to the race that there will be a "heavy traffic advisory."  Mom and I figured we needed to leave early.  We were instructed that we needed to be parked by 6:30 because the roads will begin closing.  We left the house at 4:55 and arrive in Atlanta around 6:00 with little issues.  There was no traffic at that time, but we did have one hiccup with Atlanta police directing us the wrong way - hey it happens!  According to Facebook there were some traffic issues as time went by, but everyone was well warned.  There are 17,000 trying to get to the same place - traffic is expected.  

Since we got there so early, we decided to take advantage of no porta-potty (which there were TONS of) wait and no waiting for prime photo-ops.

We then went back to the car to gather our things for the race (bibs, iPods, water, etc).  After getting our stuff, we met up with my running buddies Megan and Heather.  Megan's sister, Andrea, was in town from NY for the weekend and did the race as well.  

Mom, Andrea, and I did the 5K and Heather and Megan did the 15K in final preparation for their half and full marathons (half for Heather and full for Megan) in 3 weeks.  The 5K started about 30 minutes before the 15K so while Megan and Heather finished their race preparation, the 3 of us headed to our corrals.  I was in corral D while Andrea and mom were in F.

It is always a HUGE plus when races start on time - especially one of this size.  At 7:45 corral A took off as scheduled.  Every 3 minutes, the next corral was released.  My favorite moment of this race (other than the chocolate, obviously) was my "Ryan Hall moment" (Ryan Hall is a USA Olympic marathoner and my favorite runner).  The race started by exiting the Turner Field parking lots and heading towards the capitol.  About 1/4 mile in, we ran under the Olympic Rings from the 1996 Olympics!  I have ran in Atlanta...a lot, but I have never been able to run under the rings and by the torch.  

Overall, the course was what is expected from Atlanta running - hill after hill.  It was a very nice course that allowed us to utilize the entire width of the road which was perfect for the number of people.  As instructed, most people that were slower runners and walkers stayed to the sides to allow for runners to pass through the middle.  I was quite impressed because a lot of people were doing their first 5K today. In pre-race briefings they asked how many people were doing their first 5K today and about 1/3 or so raised their hands.  The race went very, very smoothly.

The course took us in front of the capitol around a lot of Georgia State University.  After 3 miles, there it was - the finish!  Everyone knew what was waiting for us...CHOCOLATE!

The crowd and volunteers at the finish were AMAZING!  The announcer made sure to constantly give shout-outs to groups, people in costumes, people completing their first 5K, etc.  Nothing is better than a great finish line!

I knew going into today's race that I would not PR.  
(1) there are 1500 other people starting at the same time as you (which is hard to get moving)
(2) its Atlanta, and it is VERY hilly
(3) I just want to have fun and enjoy myself!

The only real "hiccup" would have been the measurement of the course.  A 5K is 3.1 miles, however my Nike+ watch as well as everyone else's running trackers (Nike+, mapmyrun, Garmin, etc) showed the 5K being around 3.25 miles.  I was a little disappointed with my time at first, then I realized the extra .15 ran plus time was not my goal today.

The finish shoots were filled with wonderful volunteers handing out LOTS AND LOTS of Gatorade and water.  I have ran races were they have ran out of water on the course and races where there was no/little hydration at the finish.  

After I finished, I waited for Andrea and mom to finish.  I found Andrea almost immediately after she finished then we waited for mom.  It seems like a pink top and the white hats from the expo were quite the outfit of choice because we missed seeing mom finished.  However we did see some pretty impressive costumes like Willy Wonka, Umpa-Lumpas, and my favorite the girls with "hot chocolate" hats and chocolate brown tutus with marshmallows!

We finally met up with mom and the 3 of us headed to get what we all came for...the chocolate!  On our way, I ran into my sorority sister Kayla who ROCKED her 5K today and PR'ed - way to go Kayla!

You would think that having 17,000 runners (about 5,000 done at this time) would create long lines to get your fondue - nope!  There were so many awesome volunteers there that we were in and out of the line within a minute or so.  


We got our 'finisher mugs' filled with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, and fondue dip-ables (banana, marshmallow, Rice Krispy treat, pretzels, and cookies).  After that we proceeded to gather with all the other finishers and enjoy our chocolate.

I ate everything in my bowl - minus the banana!  


After we finished, we knew Megan would be finishing soon so Andrea went to watch for Megan at the finish line.  I obviously did not get enough chocolate, so when I was throwing my trash away, I decided that it would be a wonderful memory of the day to spill hot chocolate all over my running socks.  Sad :(

Mom and I had to get going so we did not get to see Megan and Heather finish.  On our way out, there was no wait for the finisher photo, so we quickly did that before starting our journey back home.

I am so happy that Hot Chocolate 15K/5K finally came to Atlanta!  By the responses on Facebook, everyone had a blast today.  Experienced runners enjoyed themselves as well as first timers.  I strongly encourage everyone to do these types of fun runs.  They are a great starting point for those looking to do their first 5K as well as a "not so serious" run for runners that need to step back and just have fun with racing.

Race Pros:
CHOCOLATE (obviously)
On time start
Swag (hoodie, hat, finisher mug)
Amazing volunteers
Plenty of Porta-potties
Quick results posted

Race Cons:
A little longer than 3.1 miles (I can live with that)

Overal Race Rating: A+

(1) Did you take part in the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K?  How did you like it?
(2) What other kinds of "fun runs" have you done?

Have a great start to your week!

Time to Run,

1 comment:

  1. Brandi, I loved reading your recap of the race and the expo! I had a great time running the 5K, even if it was WAY hotter than I expected. Always nice to "meet" a fellow Georgia runner on the interwebs :)