Photo by OHventures
Dubbed "America's Sweetest Race," the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K has made its way across the country with the promise of a cup of steamy Ghiradelli hot chocolate at the finish line to warm up runners who braved the cold for an early morning jog. The event has attracted thousands upon thousands of sweet-toothed athletes eager to get their hands on a cup of cocoa in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, Phoenix, and Ohio's very own pride and joy, Columbus!
In addition to the obvious hot chocolate handed out to those who complete the run, participants also receive a lot more swag such as a finisher's mug, chocolate fondue with dippables, and even a fitted technical jacket (as opposed to most other races that hand out t-shirts)! These enticing goodies were more than enough to convince my sister-in-law (Regina) to drive three hours with her family to stay with me in Columbus so her and I could run the 5K! While the $45 entry fee seemed steep, we knew that in addition to getting a lot of fun stuff, we also would be contributing to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, whose goal is to help sick children in need. It was an all around win/win to sign up!
The Hot Chocolate 5K took place on Sunday, November 18 in downtown Columbus. It began at 7:30 AM - earlier than any run I had ever participated in. The start and finish line took place at the one and only Columbus Commons, which has become a staple for events such as this (this is the same place where the Capital City Half Marathon and the Bike Columbus Festival had their finish lines). Much to my sister-in-law's surprise, getting to the event was a piece of cake. She was not used to running in such a large race and was impressed with how organized it was despite having approximately 10,000 runners (and even more spectators) there that day.
Regina and I were thankfully both in Corral A, which was closest to the start line. This is where the serious 5K-er's could be found, and it meant we wouldn't be forced to have a slow start by running (or practically walking) behind those who had a much slower pace than us. The route headed north on High Street, past the Statehouse into the Short North. It then headed west on Poplar and back south on Park Street (which turned into Civic Center). We ran alongside the Scioto River when getting back downtown, and eventually circled back to Columbus Commons by heading east on Mound Street and north on 3rd Street.
My run went surprisingly well! I was a bit skeptical of my time, since it was so early in the morning, so chilly out, and because I had been out with friends the night before (hey, I gotta be honest!). I clocked in with a time of 25:54. Not far behind was Regina, who had a time of 26:54. We were both incredibly pleased and impressed with our results and felt absolutely fantastic! It was the first race since my half marathon in which my knee gave me zero problems! While our times could have been even better, we chalk it up to a pretty tough course with a large hill near the 3 mile mark! I came in 319th overall, or 22nd in my age group for men (out of 118) and Regina came in 474th overall, or 30th in her age group for women (out of 580).
It had warmed up quite a bit since the brisk 36 degrees at the start of the race. It was more like 50 degrees when we finished, and we were of course sweaty in our layers of dry fit gear! Since we finished so quickly, there was no line whatsoever for us to get our finisher's mug with chocolate fondue and dippers (which included pretzels, a banana, marshmallows, wafers, etc.). There were inflatable marshmallow men and mugs of cocoa all around the park as more and more people trickled in from the finish line. On stage was a rather interesting choice of entertainment. I am just not so sure that a band that covers rap songs from Nelly and Eminem is really fitting for such an event, especially at 8:00 AM. But it made for a good laugh!
We gobbled up our grub and made it out of there by 9:00! We truly enjoyed the race (we were lucky to have such fantastic weather) and everything that came with it: the chocolate, the charity, and the camaraderie. If you want to join in on the fun, this extremely popular race already has 2013 dates on the calendar for other cities outside of Ohio. It's likely Columbus' 2013 Hot Chocolate 5K will be announced soon, and perhaps other locations in the state?