PRE-RACE: There is plenty of information available for these races before they take place. Between the emails, the consistently updated website and social media accounts, it's easy to get any question you need answered. Parking for this event can be tricky but the race organizers provided a lot of info on this as well, and a super helpful map. Packet pick-up is not available day-of for this race but there is a two day expo the Friday and Saturday before which features and handful of vendors and the beginning of many, many opportunities for sweet chocolate snacks.
THE SWAG: The swag for this race is incredible, race registration came this year with a zip up jacket featuring a version of the race logo. The jacket came in a wine colored version for women and black for men. The best part of the jackets was the try-on station they had available at the expo. If you didn't like the size you had ordered, you could exchange the whole packet. The only thing to be mindful of is the fact that you cannot try on the actual jacket IN your packet, only the testers. Once you've opened your packet and taken out the jacket it cannot be exchanged. If you're interested in more swag the Hot Chocolate races feature a handful of merchandise available for sale both at the expo and after the race.
THE RACE: There are TONS of participants in this race so waiting for your corrals start time can take up to 25/30 minutes. A 15k was a distance I had never seen before so it was a cool opportunity to experience something different. This course is entirely flat and weaves in and out of the retail area surrounding Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. Several sections of the course are out and back. There are aid stations every two miles or so with medical attention, water, the sports drink Nuun and of course, candy. M&Ms, Marshmallows, Chocolate and more was available along the course. Something I thought was a nice touch was the special attention the volunteers gave to your name tags (attached to your bib) they'd be sure to shout personalized encouragement from along the sides, great motivation! There weren't a lot of spectators along the course but the volunteers more than made up for it. The course is well staff with plenty of signage and markers. My favorite part was the signs counting down every 100 yards to the finish starting at the 500 yard mark, I was so excited coming into the finishers chute!
THE BLING: The race medal for this race is AWESOME! A larger than life candy bar featuring Arizona's famous red rock mountains. A good thing to note is that the medals are only for 15k finishers! The Hot Chocolate race series tours around the country and each medal is redesigned for the city the race is in. All finishers, both 5k and 15k receive the finishers hot coco mug, complete with snacks and a steaming hot cup of Hot Chocolate.
FINISH LINE & POST-RACE: The after-party for this race is awesome! The finish line is packed with fans and spectators, including many of the 5k participants! The 5k finishes long before the 15kers so be sure to make a plan with your friends if you're running different distances! The energy crossing the finish was a ton of fun, but the energy at the after party was even better. The post race party included plenty of inflatable photo ops, hot tubs, merchandise and plenty of chocolate. My only critique is the fact that your only option when it comes to enjoying your giant chocolate mug and snacks is to sit on the ground - this is a bummer! I am a mid-pack runner but I had a friend with me this race that averages about 14 min miles, so she was much closer to the end. We were super happy that everything was still set up and plenty of people were still hanging out once she had finished the race. The race organizers are super prepared for anything and it showed. Finally, enjoy any photos of you taken along the course for free, there are no charge for photo downloads.