“Disclaimer: I received entry into the Hot Chocolate 15k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
The Hot Chocolate 5k and 15k was held in downtown Chicago, on Sunday, November 8, 2015. 7:00 am. Cool, 40 degrees, sunny.
Registration: This was available online. It started at $54 and increased to $79 until registration closes. The race is capped, so you might not have been able to register at packet pick up. Included with registration, bib with your name, zip up gender specific sweatshirt (embroidered if registered early), bib chip timing, drawstring bag, post race chocolate goodies, finisher’s medal. If you registered with a promo code you would have received a multi functional head wrap. There was also a 5k and a separate walk, at different costs.
A few days before the event there were only 225 spots left, and when we made the packet pickup on Saturday, it was sold out, but you could register for a charity spot.
Packet Pick-up / Expo: There were multiple opportunities to pick up your packet. Starting Thrusday at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker and going through Saturday. If you were unable to make these dates you could have arranged to have your stuff mailed to you, but had to do so before a certain date at there was a fee. There was no race day packet pick up.
The expo had a lot going on. It was in the lower level of the Hyatt Regency. When you entered a volunteer was handing out chocolates, and directed you to pick up your bib. There were many bib stations, volunteers waving pom poms when their station was open. You could show an ID or your confirmation email, and you were given a bib only. From here to claim the remainder of your “goodie bag” (sweatshirt) you had to walk to the opposite end of the hall. The goodie bags were divided between men and woman, and embroidered and non embroidered (had to look at bib to see what to pick up.) The sweatshirt was in a plastic bag, and you were encouraged to go to the “try on” station before opening that bag, if you needed to make an exchange. Available if that size was available.
There were many areas to the expo. You had the Hot Chocolate organized events: bibs, goodie bag, registration information and the food. This race only had marshmallows with chocolate on them and hot chocolate. This area didn’t seem too crammed.
Then there was the traditional expo happening, and this area seemed cramped. The sweatshirt exchange was in this area too. You could visit vendors, get samples, take photos, spin the wheel and sign up for other races. There was also a large area to buy Hot Chocolate branded merchandise.
The location of the expo could have been tricky to get to. There was construction on one surrounding street. I am not certain if there was parking at the hotel, it was a very congested area, both inside and out. This is also my second hot chocolate event, so I felt that there were food options missing. Also I was with my friend T, she had signed up for the promo multi-functional head wrap, she was never given it when she got her bib or goodie bag, no mention of it. Luckily she remembered to ask about it at the information table, and the way she asked and the fact I was standing next to her in my Bibrave shirt, I was given one too.
Pre Race: This event is held in downtown Chicago, you should plan ahead for a parking plan. There are ramps in the area, but traffic can be a pain, but you could take public transportation. There were many port-o-potties available near the starting area. Gear check was available, using clear bags provided. Participants were seeded to start the run in 2 waves and multiple corrals, up to letter W. The first wave started at 7:00, and the second wave was to start at 7:45. To gain entrance to the corrals and gear check, runners had to cross the corral area. At each gated entrance there were volunteers checking bibs. Corrals closed at certain times
There were many pre race announcements and loud music. There were monitors set up displaying video. The National Anthem was performed live and the race was underway, one corral at a time, with a few minutes in between.
The entrance system into the corrals was congested. By having to cross the area of the corrals to get to the backside, it just made for some weird logistics. I also observed many scaling the fence on the closed side of the corral to gain entry, this fence scaling was not monitored and I saw a corral J bib in my corral C. Also there are a lot of participants, so those in the later corrals were on their feet a long time before they were able to start.
Race/Course: The course was on the paved streets of Chicago.
- pavement/asphalt – lots of man hole covers, uneven spots, patched spots
- first mile or so on lower wacker, run through McCormick tunnel, between tall buildings – not fun for the GPS
- photographers – but only near the finish
- All miles marked, a clock was at each
- Water and “Gatorade” on the course. In paper cups, there were 2 different style cups, however each stop was different, just needed to pay attention to what it was. “Gatorade” was usually first
- Chocolate on course – first stop was chocolate chips, then a strawberry marshmallow, then m& m’s, then a chocolate marshmallow. (hope I didn’t forget one) However, I missed the marking that chocolate chips were ahead, and missed the stop as I wasn’t prepared to stop.
- Very few spectators – especially for an event with tens of thousands of runners
- Flat – some minor inclines, but nothing major
- Scenery – some nice parts, some boring parts, mostly city type landscape, no running near the lake.
- Course markings – I never saw any spray painted marks or arrows, or a volunteer telling me left or right, but there were orange cones. At one point with a small out and back, you could have cut the course.
- Volunteers – All intersections were marked with a volunteer. The aid stations had very energetic groups helping (it looked like they got swag too)
- Bathrooms – I noticed none on the course
- Timing mats for splits
I totally read the map wrong, I was excited that it was not running near McCormick, boy was I pissed when I got close to the tunnel. I get that it’s the easiest way to get from point A to B, but how does this continue to be the most dangerous thing??? There is even a sign for cars to turn on their lights, It’s dark and there and potholes galore! Easy to turn and ankle or trip and fall, especially when the light is blinding you as you exit. So, add some freakin lights and fix the holes, if races must use this. If I never run it again, it will be too soon! Otherwise the course was fine, could have had some better markings with chocolate stations, and course markings ( I just followed the crowd) I only drank the water on course, notes about the “gatorade” later.
Post Race: The finish was easy to find, there was an arch and timing mats, as well as lots of photographers. Once you crossed the line, a medal was handed to you, and you could grab a bottle of water. The finishing chute was long, and we continued to walk, and passed the Sport drink flag, and were offered yellow colored “Gatorade” After you passed this point, you could claim your gear check items, but you still weren’t at the post race party at Butler Field.
The post race finisher’s party was at Butler Field. There was music, t-shirts, sign up for “X” promos & free samples. This is also where you claimed your finisher’s mug all the way at the back. There is no tables, seats, or shade in this feild. There was sign near the finisher mug pick up to not stand or sit in the area. With a lot of finishers’ the area was crowded.
The finisher’s mug is a plastic divided cup item. In the center there is hot chocolate, then surrounding it, there is a banana, marshmallow, Rice Krispie treat, pretzels, fancy chocolate roll treat, and chocolate fondue.
Runners could reunite with their friends and family members in this area too. There were letters stationed so you could pick a spot.
Oh Butler Field, such a nice wide open space to hold post race events, but it seems like you have to walk 56 miles after the race to get here. Also maybe some picnic tables or an area to sit, or step aside would be great. Many rave about the finisher’s mug, while it’s a unique item to receive, I am usually on chocolate overload at this point. Also it’s hard to hold the water bottle and this mug and have no where to be/sit, to eat the items. However it’s nice some items are wrapped and I can eat them later. Also the free samples and such had lines, people are rude and don’t wait in the lines, and would rather budge.
Ok, I also think I noted this in my Hot Chocolate St. Louis review, I really don’t think the “Gatorade” on the course is Gatorade, it taste’s like lemonade because it is super sweet, and doesn’t have that electrolyte after taste. I know I can’t be the only one.
Overall: I don’t mind Hot Chocolate races, they are not a race designed to set a PR, or run a serious race, but rather a fun time. It’s nice to get a sweatshirt, medal and chocolate as something different. However they can be crowded. If you want to have fun with friends, these events are perfect for that.
Personal: People ask me how was the race, I say, it was just another race. So, not sure if I am burnt out, or just over the crowded scene, or need a break from Chicago. I didn’t have a bad time, just little things that drive me nuts. I wouldn’t not recommend the race, just not sure if I would run another without free entry.
Results: 1:30:46. I had to look and my St.L time was 1:29.
Make sure to add your review to Bibrave.com