This was my 5th time running Hot Chocolate 15K as a BibRave Pro (4 times in person, 1 time virtual). The last time I ran the race in person was in 2019, so it was fun to be back for real! This race historically has some crazy weather, so I was thrilled for a cloudy day in the 40s (rather than the predicted rain we had earlier in the week). The overall vibes of this race are excellent, with all of my friends who ran today commenting on how it's one of the most diverse, inclusive run races in Atlanta.
Expo: downtown Atlanta in the old Rich's department store, which is now home to various events throughout the year. I quickly took MARTA from my house and walked 5 minutes from 5 points station. I imagine the parking situation would have been difficult for those who choose to do that, but I live in a city, so I don't have to drive. It was very easy to pick up race packets and the race hoodie. They also have a station to try on sizes and switch your hoodie size if you'd like, so don't stress about selecting a size when you register (they do run true to size, though, FYI). The expo had a nice mix of local race and running store vendors, as well as some larger national brands. There's also a candy and chocolate table where you can pre-game on all the yummy chocolate, M&M's, hot chocolate, chocolate-covered cookies, and marshmallows, etc. YUM!
Race morning: again, I took MARTA in front of my house, which was very easy. There are paid parking garages in centennial park garages that the race management recommends, but that's all I know about that situation. #SorryNotSorry #MARTAIsSmarta
Everything race morning was pretty easy. I wish there were better signs directing folks to gear drop. Some of us old folks can't see well walking around in the dark. Also, there was no pre-race water station that we could find. A lovely volunteer had an extra bottle of water she gave to us, and my friend and I shared that. Of all the things I'd deduct points for, this is the only one.
Race course: I think it's the same course they've had for several years. Folks may call it "hilly," but to me as someone who lives and trains in ATL, I found it to be rolling hills. Nice ups and downs. My friend also commented at one point towards the end that it had been a great way to see the city. Downtown, Summerhill, Grant Park, Sweet Auburn, Midtown, GA Tech. Aid stations every 2-ish miles with water, Gatorade, and usually some snack (I saw Swedish fish and m&m's).
Finish area: After finishing and getting the great medal (chocolate bar-shaped, of course), there's a throng of folks waiting in one of 7 lines for the hot chocolate and candy mugs. Even though a lot of people were waiting, the lines moved fast (I think we waited 10 minutes). What I noticed was different this year was the mug was disposable and no longer the plastic commemorative mug. It appeared that the mug was recyclable or compostable. I suspect some folks would be disappointed by this, but I liked this change as it makes for much less landfill waste.
Bonus: the DJ at the start/finish area was LIT. There was definitely a Soul Train at some point. :-D