Yesterday I ran the Hot Chocolate Run 15K in Philadelphia together with my wife, family and friends. It was ‘Finger Lickin’ Good!’
This was the first time that the Hot Chocolate race series had come to Philadelphia. I remember encountering them for the first time during the expo at last years ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon’ where they won me over with the chocolate fondue. Did I mention there was chocolate involved? This race happened to achieve two fixes for my addictions…running and chocolate. Not always on that order but they mix well.
Whilst we didn’t attend packet pickup ourselves (shout out to our friend Zara) there was no actual expo for this race and bib and swag pickup was held in two local running stores. The swag itself was a color coordinate cinch sack (which we used for gear check), pink for ladies and blue for men and everyone received a blue or pink technical hoodie. The hoodies were gender specific so ladies had a specific cut to them which was nice. Zara made a goody bag of candy for everyone who she picked up race bibs for (I think it was at least 10 people). Thanks for the Ghiradelli ‘Z’ :-)
When we first signed up for this race my wife commented that a hot chocolate race in April didn’t seem right as it was now Spring. Well, as we walked from the parking to the start line shivering yesterday she agreed it was a great idea. Compared to last weeks ‘LOVE Run’ Half Marathon in the cold and rain I was much happier with the conditions, even though it was colder it wasn’t raining.
We got up early, met my sister and law and her fiancé and we all traveled down to Philadelphia together. There was a 5K race about 45 minutes before the 15K started so we arrived early in case the streets around the starting area were blocked off from traffic.
I wasn’t sure how I planned to run the race as I actually ran my last long run for the upcoming New Jersey Marathon (20 miles) the previous day, but having taken an ice bath, stretched and slept in a pair of compression sleeves the night before I felt good (tired but good). Having had a good stretch in the parking lot we walked to the starting area just as the 5K corrals were being let go. We met up with our friends, checked the bags and tried to stay warm. Handy hint – keep your Mylar blankets from previous races, they come in useful on these cold morning starts.
Also new today I was wearing a ‘Buff Band‘. I usually run in a hat or visor but decided after some recommendations from friends to try something new today. It was comfortable and kept my ears warm without getting me too warm which a beanie would have. The temperatures were predicted to be warmer around the time we were due to finish and having raced in a beanie before I know how warm I can get.
There were 7 of us all starting in the same corral and my wife and I planned to stick together as best we could during the race. Interestingly I had never ‘raced’ this distance so a PR was on the cards for the day :-)
There are so many options for race courses in a Philadelphia but most start and finish around Eakins Oval just opposite the Philadelphia Museum of Art (think ‘Rocky’ steps). This course headed out along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, ran a loop clockwise around the circle at Logan Square and then back up to the Art Museum, running to the left along an out and back on West River Drive to finish at the steps of the Art Museum. A nice, fairly flat (except for last 1/4 mile) run along the river on a nice spring morning.
My wife and I started out together and I planned on taking my usual run/walk intervals(4:00/0:50) with the plan on staying close by my wife so we can run side by side. Fine in theory…problem is that she is getting faster!!! I would end my walk break sprinting to catch up with her just to have a walk break hit as we settled in again. D’oh! Anyway, we were always in sight of each other so it wasn’t a problem. There were 4 water stops on the course (actually 2 but they covered both sides on the out and back part) and there was also a ‘Chocolate station’ according to the pre race map. In actually reality the chocolate station was a guy holding a large back of miniature chocolates. I passed on this but my wife grabbed a few. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate…my wife, not so much. Also, the chocolate station was placed at the end of the water station and I heard a few people complain that it is difficult to run and suck down chocolate without water #runnerproblems
At the turn around I decide to ditch the walk/run intervals and run back in with my wife as there were only 4 miles left and I was feeling okay. We were running a decent pace which was about 8:45-8:50 minute miles. The sun was shining and when we were not in the shade the temperatures were great for running. We saw our family and friends as we were on the back portion. I find it is always easier and a good distraction to look out for folks when you are running. It takes your mind of what you are actually doing LOL.
We walked through the water station around the 10K mark and with a 5K left to go we buckled down for the finish. Actually picking the pace up a little. My wife wanted some water as we entered the final couple of miles but the water station didn’t appear until almost mile 9 which was a bit late as there was only 0.3 miles left to go. The sun was out and we saw the finish line in sight and sprinted to the finish line together. We crossed the line in 1:22:36 at an overall 8:53 pace per mile. A good race and we were feeling fine.
Now came the best part of the race (although I may be biased). Once getting through the finished chute everyone was handed a bottle of water and then we could head over to the Hot Chocolate tent. Let’s be honest, there was only one reason I agreed to run this. Did I mention there was chocolate? :-)
Attached to everyone’s bib was a voucher for a hot chocolate mug. We headed over to the tent where everyone was provided with a giant mug which contained a cup of hot chocolate in the middle and in compartments around that was chocolate fondue and to dip in there was a marshmallow, a Rice Krispie treat, some pretzels, some graham crackers and a banana (I assume for the health conscious LOL). Did I mention there was chocolate?
My wife and I found a place to sit and then, as my wife will tell you, ate the whole post race food :-) We joked that we never eat all the food they give us but this was an exception. I have to say it was very rewarding and we had a blast with this. Sugar highs made us both giggle and we were as messy as they come. Eating chocolate fondue is fun. I was so messy even my 3 year old would comment on the mess I was making. They provided a complimentary ‘moist towelette’ with the mug and it was woefully inadequate for me. I think I needed to be hosed down as I was wearing so much chocolate. I eventually ran out of things to dip into the fondue…that’s what fingers are for, right?
Once my wife and I managed to clean ourselves up (to be at least presentable) we walked around and took some pictures and checked out some of the merchandise while we waited for everyone. It was funny, on the drive down my wife commented that she cannot see this as a race she would want to repeat as the race gear seems to be generic without the year noted on the swag. After the post races goodies she changed her mind :-) That may have been the fondue talking. I myself might not do the 15K again but I would absolutely do the 5K run with my eldest who will be 8 next year, however I will put a packet of baby wipes in my gear bag if he gets anywhere near the fondue ;-)
I’d recommend this race as a fun race for folks. If you want to run a 5K this is definitely one to do with family and friends. For those looking to build up from a 10K but not ready for a half marathon this is an opportunity to run a unique distance on a nice course. Of course the post race treats are a great reward. Did I mention there was chocolate? :-)