The Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in Columbus, OH was held on Sunday, November 5, 2017. This was a week earlier than the race last year, which turned out great as the weather was overcast and 60 degrees at race start.
Registration for the Hot Chocolate Series, put on by RAM Racing, opens up early in the year. The prices for the 15k/5k are relatively inexpensive compared to other races. Early registration starts off at $69 and increases to $79 closer to race day. During registration you can also make a donation to The Make A Wish Foundation, which is the race partner charity. Not a better charity out there to support and hats off to the partnership between the race organizers and charity. Additionally you have the option of paying extra to have your race packet including (bib & race swag) to your home address.
Once you are registered you receive weekly emails from the race that includes any new race information, and what I found pretty cool a race training plan. Go from couch to 15k runner in no time. Joking aside a great addition for those runners who may not have a trainer and are just beginning to run. I did not take advantage of the training plan, however did take an in depth look at it.
The festivities kickoff at the two day race Expo, which was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. There were about 20-30 vendors offering race gear, local races and charities that you could purchase gear from and visit. Due to my travel week I was unable to make it to the Expo, so took full advantage of having my race packet shipped to my house.
From what I heard from participants at the race that did have the opportunity to visit the Expo, their opinions were positive on packet pick-up, the vendors and overall atmosphere. They did also mention there was CHOCOLATE to be consumed, which if you haven't heard is a staple/theme of the race.
Note: Due to volume of race participants there was no race day packet pick-up.
I was looking forward to race day during the leading weeks. I felt I had put in the necessary training to hit, if not surpass my goal. The night before the race, my wife asked if I checked the weather?!?!?!?! I am one that tends to not pay to much attention, but decided to look at the forecast called for 70% chance of rain and temperatures in the upper 60's. Wait this is November, right? I was driving in from Akron so the alarm went of early and I made the drive to Columbus. I arrived around 6am and traffic was actually pretty light. Prior to race day, in the weekly email, it was recommended to reserve parking ahead of time, due to the fact that 10,000+ runners would be participating. I did just that, but had a difficult time getting to parking structure I selected based on road closures. Eventually after some back roads navigating I found the parking structure and was pleasantly surprised to find it located right next to the post-race party! I passed through where the post race party would be and found that it was very organized.
I am not one to participate in gear check, but definitely made sure I checked it out and needless to say there were several volunteers checking in bags and areas were separated by bib number. Easy in and easy out. In that area you could find information and volunteers assisting racers with navigation questions, additional safety pins.
Off to the start line which was a 500meter walk from the post race after party. With the number of runners participating, each runner had a corral letter on your bib. There were plenty of restrooms available near the start line, and I did not see any lines. I made my way into the corral at 7:00am for the 7:30am start. The race director was engaging with participants and right before the National Anthem a few children from the Make a Wish Foundation told the crowd their stories and how the Make-A-Wish Foundation made their wishes come true. Pretty touching and even more of a reason to run this race. The National Anthem was sung and the race started.
Each Corral was spaced out to not congest the streets of Columbus, so I made my way out from the starting gates. It was getting a little warm at the time, but with the overcast it wasn't too bad. I positioned myself in between the 7:00 min and 7:30 min pacer.
The beginning of the race was through the streets of Columbus, where I expected to see more spectators than were out. I blamed that on the weather, however there still were cheers to be heard. The course is pretty flat with only 230 ft of elevation gain from start to finish. Although for me it felt that elevation change was more drawn out than sudden. Downtown Columbus was just that, big buildings, not to much to see. Around mile 4 you headed onto the campus of Ohio State where you passed the basketball arena and headed over the Olentangy River. This is where the spectators diminished to few if any and the course became peaceful. At mile 7 you headed through a residential area and back towards the finish line. The crowd presence was much greater here providing that extra jolt of energy to cruise to the finish line. There was a race announcer calling out names of each finisher, but I was to focused on hitting my PR to hear my name called. After you finished you were handed your finisher medal, nuun drink, a bottle of water and had the opportunity to take a picture. There were no food items immediately past the finish line.
I felt the aid stations needed a section of their own in this review. This race isn't called America's Sweetest Race for nothing. As you approached the aid stations I was expecting water or Nuun to be the first cup, however at the first station I grabbed a cup only to find M&M's. What chocolate at an aid station? LOL, well I took that cup and moved on to water and my favorite beverage Nuun! There were plenty of volunteers staffing each station and more than enough beverages to be passed out. Each aid stations had a different snack.
The post race party was by far the best that I have been to. It was held very close to the finish line where you would find your Chocolate!!! Each participant received a cup of hot chocolate, marshmallows, pretzels, banana and chocolate fondue to dip your food into. Talk about a race having 500 gallons of hot chocolate and over 1200lbs of chocolate fondue. Yummy! There was music playing, several selfie opportunities with inflatable marshmallows. What I also found pretty awesome was the Make-A-Wish Foundation where you could have your bib scanned and donate $10 to make wishes come true. I definitely took advantage of that. All in all outside of real food being offered I enjoyed the chocolate.
The swag is by far the best I've received from a race. The 1/4" pullover colors for both the men and women participants is great. (Blue - for Men, Purple - for women). The medal for the race is modeled after a huge chocolate bar. This year the race added a key chain for each city as an extra. Pretty cool if you ask me.
All in all this was my first Hot Chocolate 15k and I wouldn't be surprised if you see me at another in the future. The race communication was excellent, the post race party SWEET, no pun intended and the swag fantastic.
Do yourself and register for a Hot Chocolate 15k/5k!!!