Latest reviews by Emily McCoy

(2016)
"If you like running, chocolate or both, then this race is for you!"
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This was my second year running the Hot Chocolate 15K. This race is great because it is walker friendly and has two distances (5k and 15k) to choose from. I've run the 15k both years but this year my mom walked the 5k (this was her first race, she's a beginner) and she loved it.

Registration:
This race can get pretty expensive, so I highly recommend signing up early on to save some money. I waited until two weeks before race day and ended up paying $78.00 for the 15k and the 5k was about $55 at that time. Signing up when registration first opens is easily $25 cheaper so definitely consider that if you're thinking about running this race.

Expo:
Like most Philadelphia races, the expo was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center right in the city. It's super easy to get to whether you drive or take the train. The process was extremely easy, all you need is the registration confirmation, either printed or on your phone, to receive your bib. You can also pick up 5 other bibs for friends, which is super convenient. After you get your bib you head over to the "swag bag" pick up. The “Swag” they are referring to is basically just the jacket that is included in the registration fee. Then you are free to either leave or check out the vendors but before you go make sure you grab a complimentary cup of hot chocolate and some sweets!

Race Day:
Since this race takes place in early April, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. The first year I ran it was chilly but the sun was shining. This year, it was raining and cold. My group arrived to the race venue at about 6:50 because half of us were participating in the 5k that started at 7:15. This was a bummer for those of us who were running the 15k because we had to wait around until 8:00 when our race started. I think in the future they really need to consider switching the start times. It makes no sense to me that the longer race would start after the shorter race - the rest of our group was finished the 5k before we even started the 15k. They weren’t thrilled about having to wait two hours for us to finish the race, especially in the cold rain.

Course:
Despite what I said last year, this course really is great. It is flat which helps with keeping a solid pace (which I did) the entire time. You start on the Ben Franklin Parkway, make a loop around the construction outside of Love Park (temporary) and head towards MLK drive. The way out is about 4.5-5 miles, turnaround and then another 4ish miles until you end up at the finish line.

Finish:
The finish line takes place in front of the art museum steps. At the end you were handed a medal and a water bottle as well as some other drinks and then were free to go grab your finishers mug filled with chocolate!

Amenities:
As promised, each finisher receives a finisher “mug” which is basically this plastic bowl with separate compartments. In the middle is the cup of delicious hot chocolate. Then there’s a separate compartment filled with chocolate fondue and they give you plenty of yummy things to dip in it (marshmallow, banana, rice crispie treat, pretzels ect.) As I previously mentioned, this race doesn’t give out t-shirts. Instead, they give jackets. The jackets are pretty nice but not really my style so I’ve never worn mine but some people love them.

Overall:
The one disappointment of this race would be that the 5k finishers don’t receive a medal. I previously mentioned that this race was more on the expensive side, so you would think that they would have enough money to make medals for the 5k finishers as well. My mom was definitely disappointed that she didn’t get a medal after her first 5k. All in all, this race was great. Despite the unfortunate weather, I still pulled of a PB time and enjoyed every second of my finishers mug. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone, whether a beginner walker or elite runner, it’s fun for everyone!

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(2015)
"Fun - but not my favorite race."
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As a two time veteran runner of the Philadelphia Half Marathon, I had high expectations for another Philly race especially because it was the well known Rock ‘n’ Roll series. I hate to say it, but I was surprisingly disappointed afterwards.

Expo: Like all Philadelphia races, it was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, right in the heart of Philly. If you’re from out of town, it would make for a good trip to the city to do some sight seeing for the day. I got there only 20 minutes after it had opened on the first day and there was no line getting in. You went to a different table depending on which corral you were, presented your confirmation sheet, ID and your bib was handed to you. The only thing I’d have to complain about is the fact that you had to have a printed version of the confirmation sheet. It couldn’t be electronic. Hello, it’s 2015; everything should be accepted electronically. You’re then ushered into the areas containing overpriced running apparel, 13.1 magnets and of course everybody’s favorite – free samples! Overall, I was very pleased with how speedy the whole process was. I was in and out within 15 minutes but I easily could have been there for hours if I had stopped to look at every table in the expo.

Race Day: My friends and I arrived at about 6:30 (an hour before start time). From what I saw, there was no security getting in, anyone could walk right through the gates, which in my opinion is not very safe. This year the race happened to take place on Halloween so there were a ton of very creative costumes, which made for a great atmosphere. We got into our corrals and waited to approach the start line. Based on my previous race experience, the corrals were pretty small but there was almost no traffic after crossing the start line, so that was a plus.

Course: *Me while thinking about this course* UGH. I had already registered for this race before seeing the course map, which in all honesty might have changed my mind about signing up in the first place. Again, I’m comparing this race to my experience with the Philly half. This race started out on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the first 4-5 miles wound through the streets of Philly. Then, you head down behind the art museum and enter onto Kelly Drive on historic Boathouse Row, run straight for 4 miles, turn left over a bridge and head back down the other side of the river for the rest of the race. This is both good and bad. Is the course completely flat? Yes. Is it scenic? Yes. But because it is not easily accessed by the public, there are almost no spectators, which, makes for a boring run.

Finish: The finish line was right in front of the steps of the Art Museum and there were definitely more people there than the rest of the course. My complaint about this part was it seemed that the medals and food weren’t given out until much farther down than I am used to. It just took a while to get out of the crowd, which is all I wanted to do at that point!

Overall I’d have to say my biggest disappointment with this race was the lack of spectators. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was Halloween and people were too busy to come out but compared to the Philly Half, there was no one there. For me, that’s a big problem because usually the spectators are what give me the adrenaline to run a half marathon in the first place! I would not recommend this race to a first time halfer purely based on the lack of personality this race has to offer. It wasn’t the worst but there are definitely better when it comes to races in Philadelphia!

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(2015)
"Will run for chocolate "
Overall
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Intro: Looking back I definitely would recommend this race to anyone. The great thing about the Hot Chocolate series is that they have a 5K and 15K so its really for anyone at any level of running.

Expo: I normally never have time to go to the expo's because of class or work but I managed to find time to go to this one. The expo was at the Convention Center in Philadelphia which is pretty easy to get to. Before I even entered the expo, there were vendors handing me free samples (which was awesome). Packet pickup was very easy and effortless and there were a ton of volunteers. This expo was great because if you were in a hurry you could be in and out within 10 minutes. They had so many more booths giving out free samples plus a ton of other vendors with stuff for sale.

Race Day: The Philadelphia Hot Chocolate race was in the beginning of April which can be pretty chilly - and it was at the starting line, but after a mile or two I was more than comfortable in my long sleeve shirt. My friend and I parked in a parking garage a few blocks away and walked over to the starting line which was on the Ben Franklin parkway. Getting into the corrals were very easy and they weren't too crowded.

Course: This part was one of the only parts of the race that I didn't enjoy as much. It took place along MLKJ Drive along the river, which is beautiful... but after running 25 other races there, I must admit its kind of boring. It is nice because it's all flat which makes it easy to keep a steady pace and finish strong.

Finish: The race concludes in front of the art museum steps with a large crowd of spectators which is always a great way to finish. You're handed a medal (one of the coolest medals I own) and directed towards the food stands. There you are given a bowl with the most delicious hot chocolate ever in the center and melted chocolate with various foods to dip in the chocolate. Seriously one of the best things I've ever eaten after a race.

Cons: The only thing that I didn't like about this race was the jackets that were included in registration. Im the kind of person who will drop a good amount of money on a race just for the t-shirt and I'll even pay an additional fee to upgrade to a tech running shirt. BUT for this race, the entry fee ($65 when I signed up) included a zip up jacket with their logo on the front which I am not a fan of. Honestly I've never worn it and I probably never will so that was kind of a waste of money. I'm 90% positive there is no way to register without getting the jacket which is a bummer and they should probably change that.

Overall I would definitely recommend this race to anyone whether you run the 15K or the 5K. You get an awesome medal at the end and the yummy chocolate at the end is really what makes it worth while.

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(2014)
"You have to run this race!!"
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Having grown up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, I'd spent a lot of time in the city of brotherly love. After running the Philly Half for the first time in 2013, I felt as though it had opened my eyes to the true beauty of my city.

Management:
The Philadelphia Marathon Race weekend is no joke. Between the full marathon and the half, there are about 30,000+ runners that participate. Not to mention the spectators that come out to support. Gore-Tex is the company that manages these races and I’ve gotta say – they kill it.

Race:
Living 30 minutes from the city I have never needed to get a hotel the night before. I usually leave at about 5:00am to beat traffic and arrive at a friends house in south Philly at 5:45. We then take the subway (about a 15 minute ride) to Independence Hall, which leaves us with a ten minute walk down the Ben Franklin parkway and into our corrals. The race starts at 7:00am, which of course is when the elite group takes off. Running in a race this large means that getting to the starting line is going to take some time. Even though the gun goes off at 7:00am, I usually cross the starting line at about 7:25am, but of course that all depends on which corral you are in.
The first few miles are always the hardest for me. The streets during the first mile and a half are lined with spectators, which is a great motivator to start off with. You head down to Columbus blvd. where there are almost no spectators until you hit mile 3-4 on South Street. From that point all the way until miles 7 and 8, the historic streets of Philly are lined with family, friends and residents that come out to cheer you on. There are always tons of posters and people giving out high fives. Another cool thing is that each runners name is printed on the front of their bib, so complete strangers will yell “great job, Emily, keep it up!”, which is nice to hear! Another thing that I personally look forward to seeing is around mile 7, you run right through Drexel University frat row and a lot of the students will be outside cheering you on as they shotgun beers (being a college student myself, I get a chuckle out of this). Mile 8 is pretty easy as you run past the zoo, another great Philadelphia attraction. Mile 9 roles around and you enter Fairmount Park where there is one hill in particular that I always battle with (this past year, I won). The road does wind in this part, which is different from the rest of the course, which is very straight and flat. At mile 11, you finally make your way to MLKJ Drive along the Schuylkill River. This is the part that always tests my mental strength as this is where my muscles tend to stiffen and the urge to stop creeps up. But, you keep on pushing and eventually the Art Museum comes in view and you can hear the cheering at the finish line. The finish line is the most exciting part of this entire race because there are thousands of people screaming and cheering you on as you sprint for the end. This type of energy always helps me to finish strong even when I feel like collapsing.
The finish line is always crazy but amongst the chaos, the volunteers are very organized and on top of things. Immediately you are awarded the finisher medal and wrapped up in a warming blanket. The goodie bags were also always readily available to grab and go. After you leave the finish area they have certain areas labeled alphabetically which is where you can arrange to meet your family/friends. This has always made it easy for me to reunite with my parents and even friends that have finished running as well.

As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of this race. I’m already registered and have been counting down the days until the 2015 race since April. I would recommend this race to anyone, experienced runner or beginner because there is no greater feeling than crossing the finish line in the city of brother love.

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