BibRave Race Review: Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Hot Chocolate 15k race 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 Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k race was held on October 29th, 2017.  Start and Finish line were in a Grant Park. Race temps were cool at 34 degrees with sunny skies and light winds. 

Registration

Registration opened up months in advance of the race. Prices for the 15k started at $59 and increased a couple of times until registration closes.  The highest registration fee was $79. For the 5k, registration fees start at $34 and goes up to $54.  Online registration was easy with no issues, just be careful not to purchase the registration insurance if you don’t want it.  Will cost you an extra $10-$12. 

After registering, you are sent weekly emails which include a weekly training plan if you need one.  Great for anyone running their first 15k and doesn’t have a coach.  Also included in the emails were expo information and race day info that you need to know. Also was information on the charity that Hot Chocolate Run supports; Make A Wish. 

Expo

The expo was held the two days leading up to the race (Friday October 27 and Saturday October 28) at McCormick Place in Chicago. It’s the same venue as the other major races in Chicago. There was no race day packet pick up. The McCormick Place is a large convention center.  Unlike for the Marathon earlier this month, the Hot Chocolate Expo was located right a crossed the street from the parking garage, so it was a much shorter walk to get there. If you use the parking garage, make sure to take your parking ticket with you that you get when you enter. You can get it validated and save yourself $12 and only have to pay $10.

The first thing to do is go pick up your bib.  To make the process faster, have your email out with the QR code that was sent earlier in the week to scan.  They will get your number quickly for you.  Kind of an annoying thing then is that you have to walk all the way through the expo to get to the other side to get your race shirt.  I guess this forces anyone who is looking to just get in and out quickly to at least walk through part of the expo. 

The expo has I am guessing 30-40 venders selling all kinds of products or representing charities or races. There were a couple of vendors I was interested in but many were the same as I had just seen at the Chicago Marathon Expo so I kind of breezes through the expo a couple of times. 

On the way out, there were chocolate goodies and hot chocolate for you to snack on as you were leaving.  

Race Day

If you are driving into the city the day of the event, I strongly suggest you reserve a parking spot a couple days before the race through Spot Hero.  If you are coming into the city from the south, maybe park at Soldier Field.  We chose the Grant Park South parking garage but because of road closures, it was difficult to get there.  The advantage to that sparking garage is that it is right beside the park where the start finish line is located. 

Tina and I struggled a little bit finding where gear check was at but eventually found it closer to the finish line. Might have helped if we looked at the map.  I just assumed it was around Buckingham Fountain like it was for the marathon. The tent for packet pickup was labeled well with where exactly to drop off your bags.  Also the volunteers were very helpful. 

Tina and I started making our way to our corral and stayed together until she was no longer to go any further since only corrals A-D could go passed the gates.  We said good bye and went to our corals.  Tina would be running with BibRave Pro Heather Conry as she did for most of the Chicago Marathon. 

The Race

I made my way to the coral and found my friend and fellow BibRave Pro, Frank along with his daughter.  She was running her first ever 5k.  Always awesome to see kids get into running. Frank and I talked a little bit while we waiting in our corrals, mainly about the past Chicago Marathon and Franks plans to enter it again in 2018 (I will be back at my old post at the mile 5 aid station.) 

After the pre race ceremonies (which included seeing a your girl given a trip of her dreams through Make-A-Wish and then the national Anthem) Corral A was off with the sound of an air horn.  Each corral of the race had its own start which eliminate congestion.  There were 30,000 runners at this race.  It would be near impossible to get everyone started together.  I do think their system works well.  

The first mile of the course is basically in a tunnel.  It’s hard to see and on a warmer day, it smells like urine. On this day, it didn’t smell that bad. While it is cool to run through a large city with no traffic, this course was boring.  It really didn’t go past any of the real scenic city areas of Chicago until the last couple of miles while running along the lake front and by Soldier Field and the Field Museum. 

A couple negatives about the course happened in the same area.  There was a short section of our and back, followed by going under McCormick Place.  Not sure why every Chicago Race (besides the marathon) has to go under McCormick Place. As far as the out and back, there seems to be plenty of room to either push the start line back a little bit or move the finish line down the road to get the distance right and eliminate this mess. ​

​there has got to be a better way. 

Oh, I how can I forget about the aid stations?!?!? Each aid station had water, Nuun and candy. First aid station had chocolate chips, second had candy corn, third had M&M’s and forth had chocolate marshmallows.  If you run a hot chocolate race, don’t do as I did and just slam the whole cup of M&M’s at obce

The finish line was at the same location as the Marathon.   An announcer was calling out finishers names.  Not sure if he said mine or not, as I am never really paying that close attention but I find it hard to believe with such a large race that they are able to say everyone’s name.  

Post Race

After crossing the finish line, you are handed a medal from a volunteer (not put around your neck) and you make your way down the finish shoot.  First opportunity for hydration came in the form of a cup of Nuun which I don’t drink.  Had to walk quiet a ways down the line before being offered a bottled water.  No food to be found in the finish line area. All food was in the post race party area which I was not going to go to until Tina and Heather finished. Finishers medal.  Also can’t with a key chain that had the Bean on it. 

It was easy to claim by gear from gear check post race. What wasn’t easy was walking backwards along the course.  So much of the Park was blocked off to spectators that I had to walk 2-3 blocks around the park to get to the finish line and walk along the course.  Luckily Frank, who knows the area well was able to navigate us to where we needed to go. 

Heather and Tina making their last turn on the course. 

The post race party contrinued in Grant Park where you could redeem the tab in your race bib for your large mug filled with hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, marshmallows, pretzels, bananas and cookies.  It was a tasty post race snack to say the least.  Also in the post race party area there was music as well.  Everyone around seeemed to be really enjoying themselves.Frank Heather, and ITina and I in front of the Bean.

​Cheers to another great race with great friends!Frank and I met up with BobRave Pro Connie by the finish line.  Connie is in charge of Social Media for RAM Races who puts on the Hot Chocolate Run

As for my race, I was just out there to run 9.3 miles and enjoy myself since I have a full marathon 6 days later and there was no chance that I would Place in my age division. It was a nice change in pace. 

Swag

I really like the quarter zip jackets that were the race shirts last year.  Hot Chocolate does a great job of allowing runners to vote on which jacket colors that runners want to see as their race jacket every year and this year, I think they turned out great! The medals are great as well.  

Also, there were free race photo downloads.  My finish line photo and pre race photo with Tina wasn’t too bad, but the one from on the course was a little blurry.  2 our of 3 ain’t bad.  I guess you get what you pay for. Haha 

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