Everything about this race is sweet! If you haven't run a Hot Chocolate race yet, go find one and register.
The expo was at the Tampa Convention Center. It's also the start and finish point for the race. That means after packet pickup at the expo, you'll know where to park and line up on race day. The expo was in the East Hall. There was signage and staff to guide everyone to the right place. Packet pickup was easy as 1-2-3. Get your bib, get your SWAG bag, and visit all the vendors.
You could sign up for next year's race at special expo pricing. Try samples, play games for prices, and take advantage of discounted deals. There was a Hot Chocolate gear store with accessories, rain jackets, tanks, long sleeves, and jackets. Everything flowed smoothly.
There were picture spots all around the expo. Marshall the giant marshmallow man was outside on the steps of the convention center, too.
Everyone — 5K and 15K runners — receive the full zip hooded jacket. It's some of the best race swag around. The sleeves have thumbholes. There are zip pockets. The jacket came in merlot and black this year. Everyone was encouraged to try on their jacket before leaving the expo. If it didn't fit you could use the SWAG SWAP area to get the right size by trading. There were lots of chocolate samples at the expo. I indulged in the hot chocolate because it's the BEST!
I ran the 15K. It was an out and back along Bayshore Blvd. on Tampa Bay. This is the third year for the #HC15K in Tampa, and I think it was the best weather yet. There was heavy cloud cover which made it comfortable. It was cool at the starting line. Once you started to run you didn't need a jacket. Still, it wasn't too hot.
The entire course is pretty and very flat. Lots of big houses and water views to see. The out and back course meant you see other runners out there. Lots of holiday decorations. Not a lot of spectators, but it didn't matter since you could see other runners.
Every mile is marked. Seemed to be Porta Pots at every aid station, maybe even each mile marker?
There were three aid stations offering water, Nuun , and candy. (M&Ms, marshmallows with chocolate chips, and Swedish fish. The volunteers were a blast — especially at the last aid station. The volunteers made a cheer tunnel, called runners by name, and gave an escort through the tunnel. It was hilarious, and a great boost.
The 15K finishers receive a giant chocolate bar with gold accents. It's city-specific, so the Tampa version had pirates and water. It's a substantial medal for a 15K distance.
Every runner, in the 5K and 15K gets a finishers cup filled with chocolate goodies. The delicious hot chocolate is in a cup in the center, surrounded by chocolate fondue and treats to dip in the fondue. Man, that really is the best hot chocolate around!
The post race finish area offered seating on the steps of the convention center. There were picture spots, portolets, and water views all around. Very well organized race. Great signage that made it easy to find everything.
Parking was easier this year than last year. It was a $5 flat fee. You paid in cash when you entered the Tampa Convention Center garage. No fumbling around with payment machines and tickets after the race. It was easy in and easy out.
There were a ton of runners dressed up in holiday gear. It was fun to see all the creative outfits out there! Great race at a good time of year. Who doesn't need a long run to burn off the crazy during the holidays?!