Hot Chocolate 15/5K when it cruises into Chicago on November 5.
But this isn’t a repeat of past Hot Chocolate races that have been labeled too crowded, not enough chocolate or a so-so race jacket. There are so many changes to the 2011 edition, good changes, that are making the race seem entirely new in every aspect but the name. And I’m not even referring to the most obvious fact that the race has gone national, with Hot Chocolate races to run in Washington, D.C., Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco and Denver through December 2012. Nope. It’s the Chicago changes to look out for.
Old: The race was run on the Lakefront, first at Montrose and then near the museum campus. With something like 15,000 runners on the course, it either gave you your fastest or slowest first mile, depending on how many people you could push your way past in the start corral. Ask anyone who participated last year and chances are they’ll harp on the crowd congestion.
New: The courses for both the 5K (which starts first at roughly 7:40 a.m.) and 15K (which starts at roughly 8:20 a.m. after all the 5K runners have departed) are on city streets in downtown Chicago. The Grant Park start and finish are reminiscent of the marathon as are portions of the 15K course, but the best news is more wiggle room even if cars aren’t cleared from the streets that morning. In addition to the chocolate, I’m smelling some PRs or at least times that will beat those of previous Hot Chocolates.
Old: A goodie bag item, a running jacket, that didn’t fit. Yep, some people complained that they didn’t like how they fit.
New: If you ordered the wrong size when you registered or need to swap sizes, you won’t have to leave the expo with a jacket that’s going to end up in the giveaway bin. You can exchange sizes at the expo’s jacket swap station. I know I’m used to looking far from fashionable when I take to the trail in my cold-weather gear, but I didn’t notice a fit issue when I tried on a few jackets at the store. Sure beats the tight elbows in my current closet option.
Old: No option for walkers.
New: If you’re intimidated by the 5K or 15K distance, or you’re still recovering from another race to tackle 3.1 or 9.3 miles, you don’t have to sit out Hot Chocolate, the event and its chocolate. Race organizers added a 1.2-mile walk option that takes place along the Lakefront and benefits Little City Foundation.
Old: Chocolate, but unidentifiable, generic chocolate. That’s how I remember the 2009 race with its chocolate fountain and fun-size candy bars that had Halloween written all over them.
New: Ghirardelli Chocolate abounds at the finish line’s post-race party. Wouldn’t you run if it meant a finish line filled with 280,000 gallons of Ghirardelli hot chocolate?
For someone who wasn’t a huge fan of the 2009 edition—though my memory is more scarred by my stupidity to race a 15K when I didn’t feel fully recovered from the marathon only three weeks prior—and was thankful to have been stuck in St. Louis for the 2010 race—congestion city—they easily warrant giving the race another chance, especially because I doubt I’ll be disappointed. And I could use another running jacket, even if it means I have to run to earn it—isn’t that the best prize anyway?
Want to score one of these jackets and an entry into the 2011 Hot Chocolate 15/5K? You can register online today—and hurry if you’re in Chicago as the race is filling quickly. Or you can test your luck here at Fit-Ink where we’re giving away an entry thanks to our friends at RAM Racing. The catch? Tell us in the comments why you’d run for chocolate. Share it by Tuesday, October 25, when one person will be randomly selected for that freebie entry (and save $75 if you were registering for the 15K).
I’ll kick it off. I’ll run for chocolate because it tastes even better after logging miles. OK, your turn…
Photo and video grabbed from RAM Racing.