A priority race for elite runners the Hot Chocolate 15K is not…but it was a bucket list item for this professional sweet tooth.
So after hearing all the hype from other cities, we (me, Hubby and our friend, Kelly) decided to take the plunge and kick off 2014 with a fun, themed run.
Dubbed “America’s Sweetest Race,” the event features a one-of-a-kind post-race party where runners enjoy music and a family-friendly kid-zone, plus finisher’s mugs filled with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue and tasty, dippable treats.
Here’s how the day went down:
Despite leaving early to get a jump on the traffic and parking situation, we ended up getting a late start (as in jumping into the corral behind our assigned one) because it was a more of of a hike than anticipated to the start line from the gear check area. No complaints, though; I’m not a fan of hanging out in the corrals way before the gun goes off anyway (too much nervous energy!), and since this was a more causal fun run, we weren’t too concerned about jockeying for position.
In terms of time goals, we were aiming for under 1:20 (between 8:30-9:00 pace) for a few reasons: First, it was a new race distance for all of us to figure out; second, we were realistic about the likelihood of the course being pretty crowded; and third, because we were using it more as a training/pacing run during a mileage-building cycle (specifically, in preparation for next month’s 30K).
The gun went off, and our first three miles took us through Golden Gate Park toward the ocean. It took a good two miles until the crowd thinned out enough for us to be able to get up to pace, but the mood was light and the weather was perfect (about 50 and sunny), so we took in the scenery and slowly settled into a steady rhythm. Once we hit the Great Highway, we had a four-mile stretch ahead of us (two miles down, two miles back) and things really started to open up, so we pushed it up to a 7:45 pace as we marveled at the waves crashing wildly on the beach.
Going in, I was apprehensive about this particular stretch because it was tough, mentally, during my fall marathon…but before I knew it, we were back up at Golden Gate Park and had just under three miles to go to get to the finish. This is also where we realized that the first three miles were net downhill, though, because we had a few rolling climbs to cover on way back. But thanks to the addition of our recent hill training (shout out to November Project!), I noticed I was able to attack the inclines rather than back off on ’em.
With the finish line in sight, we gave it a final push and crossed in 1:17:03 (8:17 pace). Not blazingly fast, by any means, but a strong finish — and more importantly, a healthy start to the 2014 racing season.
Another major difference in this race (besides the unique distance)? Instead of the usual finisher’s chute process (medal, photo, mylar blanket, food), we had a bit of a walk back to the “village” for the post-race party.
But it was definitely worth it once we saw the deliciousness that awaited us: Not only were we given steaming cups of hot chocolate, but the partitioned plastic mugs also contained melted chocolate, fruit, marshmallows, Rice Krispie treats, pretzels, etc.
It’s definitely a must-do event for all the chocolate lovers out there — probably not the way I’d want to fuel up after all my runs (an hour later, I was majorly craving something salty!), but the theme was cute, and both the volunteers and the participants were especially, ahem, “sweet” in keeping with the spirit of the race.
If you’re interested in running one in your area, click here to see a list of current locations (14 cities, and counting, around the U.S.).