Hot Chocolate 15k/5k Columbus Race Review

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Hot Chocolate 15k 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! All opinions are my own. 

The Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in Columbus, OH was held on Sunday, November 5, 2017.  This was a week earlier than the race last year, which turned out great as the weather was overcast and 60 degrees at race start.

This was my first time running in a Hot Chocolate Race put on by RAM Racing. After hearing all the raves about it I️ decided it was time to experience what all the hype was about. Not to mention it’s dubbed “America’s Sweetest Race”!!! I️ chose Columbus, OH, yes I️ know. (Why would a Wolverine be caught in Buckeye Nation???) Regardless I️ was excited to say the least. Going into this race I️ had a goal of running the 15k under 1hr10mins. It was my first race at this distance so I️ did not know what to expect. Time would tell as I️ definitely up’ed my training to hit that mark the last several weeks.

Registration:
Registration for the Hot Chocolate Series, put on by RAM Racing, opens up early around mid-year, and is easy peasy.  The prices for the 15k/5k are relatively inexpensive compared to other races.  Early registration starts off at $69 and increases to $79 closer to race day.  During registration you can also make a donation to The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is the race partner charity.  Not a better charity out there to support and hats off to the partnership between the race organizers and charity.  Additionally you have the option of paying extra to have your race packet including (bib & race swag) to your home address.

Once you are registered you receive weekly emails from the race that includes any new race information, and what I found pretty cool a race training plan.  Go from couch to 15k runner in no time.  Joking aside a great addition for those runners who may not have a trainer and are just beginning to run.  I did not take advantage of the training plan, however did take an in depth look at it.

Expo:
The festivities start at the two day race Expo, which was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  There were about 20-30 vendors offering race gear, local races and various charities that you could purchase gear from and visit.  Due to my travel week I was unable to make it to the Expo, so I️ took full advantage of having my race packet shipped to my house.
However I did speak to a few participants at the race that did have the opportunity to visit the Expo, their opinions were positive on packet pick-up, the vendors and overall atmosphere.  They did also mention there was CHOCOLATE to be consumed, which if you haven’t heard is the staple/theme of the race.
Note due to the number of participants there was no race day packet pick-up.

Race Day:
Leading up to race day my training picked up and had me going in the right direction.  I felt I had put in the necessary training to hit, if not surpass my goal.  The night before the race, my wife asked if I checked the weather?!?!?!?!  I am one that tends to not pay to much attention, but decided to look at the forecast, which called for 70% chance of rain and temperatures in the upper 60’s.  Wait this is November, right?  I was driving in from Akron so the alarm went off early and I made the drive to Columbus.  I arrived around 6am and to my surprise traffic was actually pretty light.  From my experience at other races parking can be a mess. Luckily prior to race day, in the weekly race email, there was a link that allowed you to reserve and pay for parking ahead of time.  I did just that, but had a difficult time getting to parking structure I selected based on road closures.  Eventually after some back road navigating I found the parking structure and was pleasantly surprised to find it was located right next to the post-race party! Winner!!! I passed through where the post race party would be, and found that it was very organized. I️ stopped for a few selfies and made my way to the race start.


I never do race gear check, but definitely made sure I checked it out and needless to say there were several volunteers checking in bags and areas were separated by bib number.  Easy in and easy out.  In that area you could find information and volunteers assisting racers with navigation questions, additional safety pins.


Off to the starting line, which was a short 500m walk from the post race after party location.  I️ met up with fellow BibRavePro (Heather) and chatted about upcoming races we were running and of course BibRave gear we were testing. We were both in the same corral which allowed for some pictures!

With the number of runners participating, each runner had a corral letter on your bib.  There were plenty of restrooms available near the start line, and I did not see any lines.

I️ made my way into the corral at 7:00am for the 7:30am start.  The race director was engaging with participants and right before the National Anthem a few children from the Make a Wish Foundation told the crowd their stories and how the Make-A-Wish Foundation made their wishes come true.  Pretty touching and even more of a reason to run this race.  The National Anthem was played and the race started.
Each corral was spaced out to not congest the streets of Columbus, so I made my way out from the starting gates.  It was getting a little warm at the time, but with the overcast it wasn’t too bad.  I positioned myself in between the 7:00 min and 7:30 min pacer.


The start of the race took us out through the streets of Columbus, where I expected to see more spectators than were out.  I blamed the lack of participation on the weather and fact that the Buckeyes lost the night before, however there still were cheers to be heard.  I️ felt really good and was keeping a good pace of 7:15/Mile. My fear was that I️ would pay for that fast start, but needed to get out in front of the crowds. The course is pretty flat with only 230 ft of elevation gain from start to finish.  Although for me it felt that elevation change was more drawn out than sudden.  Downtown Columbus was just that, big buildings, not to much to see.

Around mile 4 you headed through the campus of Ohio State University where you passed the basketball arena and headed over the Olentangy River.  This is where the spectators diminished to few if any and the course became peaceful.  At mile 7 you headed through a residential area and back towards the finish line.  It was during this stretch I️ began to get winded. I️ felt my goal time slipping away. I️ kept pushing along and noticed my pace slipping. At around mile 8.5 the 7:30 min pacer caught up to me and passed by. It was at that point I️ found a second tank of gas and came back into the city. The crowd presence was much greater here providing that extra jolt of energy to cruise to the finish line.  There was a race announcer calling out names of each finisher, but I was to focused on hitting my PR to hear my name called. I️ was in a full out sprint and crossed the finish line at 1:09:41 with a PB! After you finished you were handed your finisher medal, a cup Nuun drink, a bottle of water and had the opportunity to take a picture.  There were no food items immediately past the finish line.

Aid Stations:
I felt the aid stations needed a section of their own in this review.  This race isn’t called “America’s Sweetest Race” for nothing.  As you approached the aid stations I was expecting water or Nuun to be the first cup, however at the first station I grabbed a cup only to find M&M’s.  What chocolate at an aid station?  LOL, well I took that cup and moved on to water and my favorite beverage Nuun!  There were plenty of volunteers staffing each station and there were more than enough beverages to be passed out.  Each aid stations had a different chocolate treat for the taking. The volunteers all encouraged you as you passed by.

Post-Race Party:
The race party may have been the best I’ve ever been to.  It was held very close to the finish line where you would find your Chocolate!!!  Each participant received a cup of hot chocolate, marshmallows, pretzels, banana and chocolate fondue to dip your food into.  Talk about a race having 500 gallons of hot chocolate and over 1200lbs of chocolate fondue.  Yummy!  There was music playing, several selfie opportunities with inflatable marshmallows.  What I also found pretty awesome was the Make-A-Wish Foundation where you could have your bib scanned and donate $10 to make wishes come true.  I definitely took advantage of that.  All in all outside of real food being offered I enjoyed the chocolate.

Swag:
The swag was fantastic for this race.  The 1/4″ pullover colors for both the men and women participants is great. (Blue – for Men, Purple – for women).  The medal for the race is modeled after a huge chocolate bar.  This year the race added a key chain for each city as an extra.  Pretty cool if you ask me. Oh yeah I️ can forget to mention you receive free race photos! Winner!!!

All in all this was my first Hot Chocolate 15k and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see me at another in the future.  The race communication was excellent, the post race party SWEET, no pun intended and the swag fantastic.

Do yourself and register for a Hot Chocolate 15k/5k in a city near you!!!

 

Have you ever participated or ran in a Hot Chocolate race?  What were your thoughts?

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