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 (http://dev.connectusinc.com/usrs/signature/GABeta.taf). 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.
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.
LOVE the hoodie
Hoodie swap area
Decent priced & nice merchandise
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.