- 3 miles/5K, 9 miles/15K
- Road Race
What an awesome race! This was my first race with the Hot Chocolate series and also my first ever 15k so it was great going in knowing I'd be snagging an automatic PR! So let's get into the details!
Pre-race, the communication from Hot Chocolate was great and they even offer you a code to share with friends to give them a discount on registration. You're also rewarded for each person you refer who ends up registering for the race which was a feature I'd never seen from other races. I'd been registered since the fall so I got plenty of updates over the last few months with tips for the race.
This is really the main area that I think could use a little improvement as far as the race is concerned. The expo is only open until 6 pm the day before the race and for people like me who are working and traveling from out of town, that doesn't leave much of a window. Hot Chocolate does offer an option to have your race packet mailed to you but I also enjoy going to the expos in person to check out the vendors. I was able to make it and was actually really impressed with how efficiently and quickly the packet pickup process was run, but I was definitely sweating a bit trying to rush down from NY as traffic started to build. The packet came with your bib, some energy beans, and the AWESOME sweatshirts you get for participating in the race.
We should have done some investigating the day before to find parking but it wasn't too much of an issue. We were staying across the river from the starting line so we just got as close to the water as we could and walked across the bridge to the start. The starting line also went a lot more smoothly than I'm used to. There were no lines at gear check and what I was even more shocked by, you only had to wait in a 2-3 person line for the porta-potties! I was also happy they staggered the starts of the 5k and 15k because I was able to see all my friends start the 5k before heading off on my warmup for the 15k.
I love running in Philly and have learned that many of the courses include the same out-and-back loop along the boathouse row on the river. Unfortunately, this may not offer the best scenery but it's beautifully flat! Starting the race, I was towards the back of my corral so I had to navigate through the typical congestion you find on race day but nothing too crazy. I was able to find a decent pace within the first half mile or so and the crowd thinned out a lot close to a mile in. There were also plenty of aid stations on course for runners but I do wish there was a bit more clarity on what was offered. They had posted online that they would have Nuun, water, and snacks but it was a bit hard to tell until you were up close which cups had what. There was one aid station where all of the cups were Nuun cups but when I grabbed one I realized it was actually just water. I just think that separating the tables a bit and adding some additional signage would make it easier for runners passing through quickly to grab what they need and go. It was a short enough race that it wasn't really a concern but worth mentioning. Otherwise the organization couldn't have been better.
I've run this finish before and it's a little tough pushing up one final hill but it's great passing under the final underpass and coming out on the other side seeing the ornate art museum steps crowded with cheering runners. It's exactly what I needed to get through that final push. I was thrilled to cross the finish line and get my AWESOME chocolate bar medal and a few cups of Nuun to refuel.
I had built up a lot of anticipation for the finish line and I was not disappointed. The mug that every runner receives at the finish was packed with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, rice krispie treats, pretzels, banana, Honey Stinger Waffle, and marshmallow! It was a great way to refuel post-run. The weather was beautiful after the race so we took our time at the finish line enjoying the music, the photo ops, and of course, running up the famous Rocky Steps.
Within minutes of crossing the finish line, I checked my email to find my official results posted. In my first 15k I finished in 1:08:02 and snagged 18th in my age group, 105 overall out of more than 5,000! Another awesome perk is that the Hot Chocolate series offers free race photos. By the time we were back at our Airbnb I had an email with a link to all of my photos and this is one of the few races where the photos actually came out pretty good!
I would highly recommend a Hot Chocolate race to anyone who is interested, I'll definitely be looking to sign up for more in the future!