Latest reviews by This Old Runner ~~

(2022)
"Minions Run Virtual Race Review"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

I was excited about the Minions Run as soon as I heard about it. TBH, you had me at Minions hat! I smile every time I put it on.

This virtual race fit nicely into my training plan and was fun to run. If you’re looking for some motivation (and a new hat), sign up while you can!

One of the best parts of any virtual event is you can run any time and anywhere. That makes it easy to schedule your run with friends and family.

For the Minions Run, we planned a trip to a state park. It was perfect weather — chilly, but sunny. We hit the trails to explore the park and wildlife while logging our 3.1 miles. (You can see pictures on my blog ThisOldRunner dot com.)

RACE SWAG
I'm in love with the super soft Minions tee shirt along with the hat. It's the perfect shade of yellow and very comfy. Runners get a pom hat, short sleeve t-shirt and a Minions medal.

ROUTE
You can run a virtual race on your treadmill, local roads, a track or a trail. I like to plan new routes when I run virtually. I recommend running in a beautiful park or exploring somewhere new-to-you. The Minions Run lets you choose your own distance. I ran a 5K, but you can run whatever distance you like.

FUEL
Before any run I eat nutritious food. This was a Minions Run, so bananas were the obvious choice!

RACE RESULTS
After your race you have the option of uploading your results. You can see how you compare with other runners.

PHOTOS
You have to take your own pics on a virtual race, but the Minions Run website lets you upload photos from your run or finish line. The site adds a Minions border, then lets you download your official race pic!

I think the Minions Run did a great job with the swag and website. If you're looking for a fun race with great swag to keep you motivated this winter, go register for the Minions Run!

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(2022)
"A Hilly Challenge for This Florida Runner"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

One of these years, I'd love to challenge myself with a race in hilly Roanoke, VA, but this was not that year. Instead, I ran the Blue Ridge Half Marathon in my neighborhood as a VIRTUAL participant.

Full disclosure: When I registered, I didn’t realize there was an elevation requirement. But, because #BlueRidgeMarathon is know for its challenging hills, race organizers required 1,850 feet of elevation for the half marathon. In fact, they’re slogan (which I love) is “Be The Goat”

The Virtual Half had two requirements:
• Run 13.1 miles
• Get 1,850′ in elevation gain

I live in flat Florida, so the biggest challenge was finding elevation. Sure, there are bridges and multi-story parking lots that offer gains. But, I needed to race on Easter weekend and stay close to home. ​That meant I had to run hill repeats (27 of them!) to meet the elevation requirement. But, my mission was accomplished with a serious sense of satisfaction! I was a happy runner.

One thing that made this virtual race tons of fun was participating in a virtual relay with my Bib Rave Pro teammates. ​We roughed out a schedule, and each team member ran their leg of the overall relay. ​We cheered each other on social media, and handed a virtual baton from one runner to the next until all the miles were run. It was a lot of fun and kept the momentum going throughout the racing period. I think this was a great way to liven up a virtual race.

I can't speak to the Expo or on course details since I ran virtually. Virtual support was fine. There was plenty of info on the website, including a lot of Q & A.

After running anytime between April 1-30, virtual racers could upload their race deets via a fitness app or manually. After entering your results, you could download a finishers certificate and compare your race to others.

This race doesn't reveal it's medal or shirts until the expo, so I was searching online for a sneak peek once race weekend and the expo opened.

I’m expecting my gorgeous iconic and artsy goat half medal to arrive any day. Race management told virtual runners to expect their race packet to arrive in mid-to late May. I'm looking forward to it.

If you want to see the medal and find out how to spice up a virtual race by adding a relay element (so fun!) visit my blog at ThisOldRunner dot com for the full recap!

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(2021)
"2020 Elf Virtual Run 10K Added Lots of Holiday Cheer"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

After a year of cancelled in-person races, every runner I know was looking for some extra holiday cheer. I found mine by training for and running the Elf Virtual Run hosted by Ram Races.

Runners were encouraged to post on social media with #RunWithBuddy. It was a nice way to connect everyone so we could see how other runners embraced the theme. There were many creative runners!

RACE SWAG
The race SWAG was based on the holiday movie, ELF. Every participant received a red full-zip hoodie, green beanie, and race bib with the ELF movie logo on it. The finisher's medal was shaped like a snow-globe and matched the theme. Everything was top quality. I'll wear the hoodie and beanie a lot.

RACE MANAGEMENT
Ram Racing did an excellent job of communicating with regular emails. Runners could download a training plan, and enter a contest to win energy gels. The race had it's own Instagram account that provided encouragement, info and updates.

REGISTRATION
Runners could register in November, then run anytime (and anywhere) up until January 31, 2021. There was a 5K or 10K choice for distance. You could upload your results to see how you compared to other participants. Registration stayed open so people could join anytime in December.

HOLIDAY MOOD
As soon as I registered, I started channeling Buddy the Elf. I added an Elf-themed face mask and Caramel Candy flavored energy gels to my workouts. I wore my Ugly Sweater sunnies and holiday socks. I even created an Elf Race Scavenger Hunt.

It was fun to run around my city wearing holiday gear. It was a nice distraction during a holiday season when we didn't travel or see extended family and friends due to Covid-19. It was helpful to focus on a themed race.

VIRTUAL BENEFITS
I love in-person events, but this year the virtual aspect of this race was excellent. I could share the race with friends and family who live far away. I didn't worry about safety precautions beyond my own mask and route. I ran when and where I wanted. I could safely share the experience.

BONUS POINTS
It felt really good to have a reason to run more miles during a season filled with extra carb-loading!

I'd recommend this race to anyone who wants to stay active and enjoy the holidays + score awesome SWAG. You can read more about my race and scavenger hunt at ThisOldRunner.com.

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(2021)
"Sweet Swag and Views at Tampa Hot Chocolate Race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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.

REGISTRATION PRICES
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.

SWAG 
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.



Photos: www.thisoldrunner.com/race-review-tampa-hot-chocolate-races.html



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. 



WEATHER REPORT
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!

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(2021)
"The Upside of a Virtual Hot Chocolate 15K"
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

The 2021 Allstate Hot Chocolate Virtual Races have a flat rate of $40. It's the same price if you run a 15K or 5K. That's a GREAT VALUE when you consider everything you get. (Keep reading!)

If you register a couple of weeks before the race, they'll mail your swag to you before race day. It includes a REAL race bib and your finisher's medal, so it's nice to have it early.

My SWAG bag arrived 6 days before my race. Perfect! Check out the contents:

• Super Soft Full-zip Jacket with a Removable Hood and Roomy Pockets
• A REAL Race Bib and Safety Pins
• 2 Packets of #HC15K Hot Chocolate (it's delicious!)
• Dark Chocolate Squares
• Race Sponsor Samples (i.e., Nuun)
• Finishers Medal with Chocolate Inside

The Allstate Hot Chocolate team interacted with runners online to encourage them to keep training. They encouraged everyone to post to social media with the race hashtags. That was a fun way to engage in a virtual race community. (All Hot Chocolate racers can interact on social using #HotChocolate5k and #HC15k.)

There was great communication throughout the training period. There's even a free plan you can download from the website.

Most virtual races have a way for participants to submit their results to see how they compare to the competition.The Hot Chocolate site makes it easy to upload your race results through your race account.

I completed my Hot Chocolate 15K Louisville in one of my favorite local parks instead of downtown Louisville. Yes, I'd love to see the sights and sounds of Louisville during a race, but I had a wonderful time taking in the views on my trail.

While no one will ever mistake a virtual race for a real one, there are plenty of benefits. That's never been truer than during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need a reason to go outside — or if competition, deadlines, and swag motivate you — a virtual Hot Chocolate race is the answer. They have races all across the US.

Until we're able to race safely in person, virtual races offer a fun experience that keeps people engaged and active. Add in some chocolate, a great medal and a jacket, and that's a win-win for me! 

#HCLouisBr #HCVirtualBR #VirtualHotChocolate

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