On December 19, I ran the Tampa Hot Chocolate 5K in downtown Tampa, and I'm so glad I did!
I originally planned to run the 15K and trained for it. But, I transferred to the 5K about 10 days before race day. I didn't want to run in a crowd for 9+ miles (omicron), plus we had obligations later in the day. Running the 5K made more sense.
I've run a 15K and 5K at this event, and recommend them both. It's a flat, fast out and back course that offers lovely views along Bayshore Blvd.
The big question each year is the weather. Will it be hot or cold? Humid or dry? It's been both over the years, so there's no guarantee.
This year it was 93% humidity which added some challenges, but thankfully there was plenty of cloud cover to keep the temperature down.
Keep an eye on registration dates. You get the best prices when the season opens. I registered in July at the lowest price.
There were three price increases. The price of both races went up on October 3, November 7, and December 5. You can do a late registration during the Expo, but NOT on race morning.
PACKET PICKUP + EXPO
The race expo was at the Tampa Convention Center on Franklin Street. It was open 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, December 18. If you didn't choose the packet mailing option, you had to pick up your packet on Saturday.
The expo was noticeably smaller than pre-covid. But, all the Hot Chocolate Race elements we love were all there: hot chocolate and chocolate samples, picture spots, and HC gear.
Bonus: Since the race is right before the holidays, it's a chance to grab some gear as gifts.
There were samples of the Honey Stinger rapid hydration powder used on the race course, protein bars, and dry ice packs.
Inside the expo and outside on the plaza there were plenty of picture spots for runners. It was also easy to see where things would be happening the next day.
The Hot Chocolate 15K 5K is known for its SWAG for good reason. This year's jacket is my new fave. It's performance jacket meets lightweight puffer with a full zip front and pockets. It's the perfect weight for Florida. And, since it's a full zip, it's easy to layer over other sweaters and gear.
Runners pick up their jackets at the expo. Medals and finisher mugs are received after crossing the finish line on race day.
The finisher medals are beautiful. Each city has a city-specific neck ribbon. The finisher mug gives you plenty of goodies to snack on post race. So much better than a banana and a beer!
There were Honey Stinger rapid hydration and water bottles at the finish line. Fluids were offered on the course, but I carried my own water bottle.
RACE COURSE AND FINISH LINE
Due to the staggered starting corrals, it was easy to stay socially distanced while running. I wore my mask for the first quarter mile. I took it off once everyone was spread out.
At the finish line someone handed you a medal, Honey Stinger Rapid Hydration powder and a bottle of water. Then, we walked a short distance back to the convention center where finisher mugs were handed out.
OFFICIAL RACE PHOTOS
There were photographers walking around taking photos before, during and after the races. Runners received a link via email for individual race results and FREE photos on Sunday afternoon.
73 degrees. 93% humidity. Clouds and fog throughout the 5K. The air was heavy, but the views were good.
Whatever the temperature, I recommend this race. It's organized, easy to park, easy to run, and offers some of the best swag around. Read my blog and full review here: http://www.thisoldrunner.com/blog/week-12-hot-chocolate-15k-race-week-and-watercolor-sketchbooking
REGISTER AND RUN YOUR OWN HC RACE
There are still plenty of #HotChocolate races in the 2021-2022 season. Check out the official Hot Chocolate 15K/5K website to find a race near you.
If you can't find a location that works for you, take advantage of the virtual race option. Run when and where you want and still get all the sweet swag! Don't forget to use my code "HC21" to score a free BUFF!