A race that asks participants to run for chocolate? That takes runners on a 9.3-mile journey through downtown Chicago? That rewards them with rich, dark hot chocolate and thick, melty chocolate fondue?
Sign me up!
The Hot Chocolate 15K draws more than 13,000 runners, starts and finishes in Grant Park and winds through the Loop area of Chicago, including straight down the Magnificent Mile.
Andi and I stayed at her aunt and uncle’s house in Lincoln Square for the race, so we woke up about 6:15 a.m., got dressed and drove over to Millennium Park. We made it to the park but got stuck in a major race-related traffic jam as we made our way into the first available parking garage. (We were fortunate it was a cheap garage with a great weekend special!) We each inhaled a banana with peanut butter and made our way into the chilly air and to the race start. We used the bathroom, snapped a couple pictures and were sent on our merry running way only a little while later.
The course immediately left the confines of the park and wound around the Loop. It was relatively flat, but included three decent-sized hills. The weather was cool and breezy but hardly anything to complain about for the first weekend of November.
I felt pretty good through the first few miles. Andi and I ran side-by-side for the first mile before I crept ahead; she kept me within her sights for about five miles. I stopped to walk through every water stop and take in water and Gatorade; I had a raspberry Hammer Gel at 3 miles, half a pack of Honey Stingers at 6 miles and the other half of the pack at 7.5 or 8 miles.
I continued to feel pretty good through the middle of the race, but I felt sluggish through the last third of it; my hips, knees, ankles and feet really ached. I later decided that my current pair of running shoes are completely shot. (I guess a half marathon and a 25K, plus all the training for those and running over the summer will do that!)
I reached Michigan Avenue and then entered Grant Park, and I knew the end was near. I spied the finish line and picked up my pace to finish strong. I passed one or two people in the last 100 meters and felt so accomplished.
I walked around a bit, grabbed some water and Gatorade and waited for Andi. She crossed maybe 10 minutes later. We posed for our finish picture and headed to the post-race party for our reward: chocolate!
All in all, I was really happy with the race and was glad Andi and I decided to sign up for it and stuck to our plan, despite less-than-perfect training and other life interruptions. I had some worries the race might be a disaster based on the things I had heard about it from years past, but I was really impressed with the organization and execution of such a massive event.
So now, without any more blabbering, here are the details:
Distance: 9.3 miles
Duration: 1:56:13 chip time
Average pace: 12:29 per mile
5K split: 37:31
10K split: 1:15:57
15K split: 1:56:13
(Note: I did not use my Nike+ because the case that holds the sensor finally wore through and fell off my shoe, so I don’t have the individual mile splits.)
Chocolate never tasted so good…