Hot Chocolate Run – Race Day Experience!

This run literally sums me up to a T…I love being active…but then I also love to pig out!  Run 5K (3 miles) and be rewarded with chocolate…what more could you want?!  I signed up to Hot Chocolate 15K/5K, which as the name suggests has both a 15K (9 miles) and a 5K hot chocolate run.  At the moment they have races in 17 cities across the USA (5 being in the Midwest) which are spread out over the ‘winter’ season.  I took part in the 5K in Minneapolis, Minnesota!

Hot Chocolate Run

When you sign up for the Hot Chocolate run, an important thing to consider, is that you have to either pick up your race pack the day before the race at their Expo location, or pay another $15 on top of your race fee to have it mailed to you.

In the initial race pack, which is a drawstring plastic ‘Hot Chocolate 15K/5K backpack, you receive:

  • a long sleeve half zip top with a pocket and thumb holes! – I really liked this idea, being a winter race a t-shirt would just be covered up under an outer layer and the inside of the top is lovely and warm and fuzzy.
  • a card with some important race day details.
  • another card advertising other race cities and the online merchandise store
  • a small ziplock bag with safety pins
  • and your race number bib

The difference between the 15K and the 5K races, apart from the obvious 6 mile difference, is that the 15K does cost more to sign up for, but then at the end you receive a big chunky chocolate bar medal and a keyring with the name of the city on.

On the day of the race, you just turn up with your number on and wait until the starting time!

Hot Chocolate Run Minneapolis Snow

Typically on the day of the Minneapolis Hot Chocolate run, Minnesota was hit with a Blizzard warning (something similar happened at the Indiana race too!).  The 15K ended up being shortened to a 5K for the safety of the runners and volunteers.  Lots of people got their knickers in a twist that the race wasn’t cancelled and rescheduled.  It’s also written in the terms and conditions that if it’s cancelled/you decide not to turn up, you will not be refunded.  This is due to the race actually having to close city streets for the runners.  My Dad does road works in the UK and if the USA is anything like back home, you don’t mess with the road closure people!! It takes a lot of organising, if you are delayed opening them back up to get fined blah blah blah!

Everyone is sorted out into corrals, when you sign up for the run you have to have a rough idea of your average pace for a mile so you are grouped with other runners of a similar speed.  As the 15K and 5K ended up starting at the same time, there were then more people in each corral…but then there could well have been less due to people not chancing the weather!  The corral group is marked on the front of the race bibs so at the start line you just head for your letter and each group is then released a few minutes apart.

I had signed up for a 9 and half minute mile corral, as that’s my average, not considering the chance of race day having snow and slush on the ground with an air temperature of -10c/10f.  Needless to say I was not averaging my normal pace as it felt like my lungs were going to explode…being a Brit I don’t DO cold!  It’s also scary because there are signs on each corral gate saying NO WALKING.  Because of the slippery conditions, there were a lot of walkers!

Hot Chocolate Run Minneapolis, MN

(Me in my Hot Chocolate Run zip top!)

Even though it’s advertised as a 5K run, the route markers are placed at the mile count, rather than the kilometre count.  I also found it handy that at each mile there was a timing clock which made it easy to keep track of my pace.  I was bang on pace for the first mile but that was also the point where the blizzard decided to rear its ugly head and I was struggling to see and kept choking on snowflakes from there on in!

The course volunteers were great though, despite the weather they were cheering on the runners and pointing out slippery parts of the course so we didn’t fall over!

Around mile 2 there was a ‘sweet station’ where they handed out water (that was starting to freeze), Nuun Hydration juice (that was starting to freeze) and marshmallows!  Putting the temperature into perspective, I was running with a water bottle and by the time I finished there was a big block of ice inside it!

Each of the race bibs had an electronic strip on the back to record times, but at the end of the race this gave the announcer the ability to congratulate each runner BY NAME as they crossed the finish line, as the names flashed up on his computer as the time was ‘clocked’!  I thought this was a really nice touch, especially given the conditions we were running in!

Along the finish chute, the 15K runners were given their medals (even though they only ran 5!  I think it would have been nice if the 5K runners were given at least the city keyring though, just so they have something half resembling a medal…), there were bottles of water and more hydration juice.  A couple of the sponsors were then giving out samples of their products too.

It’s a hot chocolate run…where’s the hot chocolate?!  I hear you ask!!!  Well you have to walk about another mile for it haha.  It’s actually really cool.  You get a chocolate fondue finishers mug, which has a built in hole in the centre to hold a cup of hot chocolate (good hot chocolate, not watery nastiness!!), a smaller hole for melted chocolate fondue and then a bigger compartment stuffed with:

  • 2 marshmallows
  • a rice crispy treat
  • a banana
  • a little bag of pretzels
  • 2 biscuits/cookies (my hands were too full…and I was hungry…so I didn’t stop to look at the packet…they tasted like ginger snap biscuits or the type you sometimes get dished out with coffee)

Just like my water, the chocolate fondue froze fairly fast…half way through eating my banana in fact so it got stuck in it.

Hot Chocolate Run Finishers Mug

After the race, you can log onto the website and see your race stats in detail.  As you can see from mine, it tells you the overall finish time, your pace and where you finished out of everyone, your gender and your age bracket.  I was a little disappointed and annoyed with myself that I finished 10 minutes slower than my average 5K race time, it wasn’t my best.  But at the same time I’m also proud of myself.  I’ve never ran in the snow or in temperatures that low, so in reality it’s amazing that I didn’t come last and I actually finished the race with no injury (OK that’s a lie, I was walking like someone had shoved a stick up my butt because my cold muscles didn’t like being used and I may have trapped a nerve in my foot…but there were no broken bones)!

Hot Chocolate Race Timing

On the same screen you can also see and download pictures that were taken of you by professional photographers dotted around the course…like MAGIC.  There was one of me running (it looked like I was dying) and then a whole bunch of me crossing the finish line (the time on the board is wrong due to me not being in the first corral).  If you can’t find the photos on your race screen, there may be more in the ‘lost and found’ folder.  *TIP* If your race bib isn’t attached to your belly then your photos may be in this folder, I flicked through and a lot were of people who had their bibs attached to their legs or back, so the race number wasn’t visible.

Hot Chocolate Run Finish Line

Advice for the Hot Chocolate run

My experience may have been different to some of the other non snowy races.  One thing I’m glad I ignored was the suggested arrival time being 6.30am for an 8.10am start time.  Because of the snow we timed it so we’d arrive later.  Getting there at 7.15am was fine.  I checked out the merchandise tent, the gear check line was clear and I spent most of the time huddled together with the other runners like penguins, under the patio heaters at the Allstate sponsor booth.

The race bib has a rip off tag that you are expected to attach to the bag you are ‘checking in’.  Gear check is literally just a bunch of giant cardboard boxes where bags belonging to several other runners all get dumped in together.  The bottom part of the race bib has a part that you rip off to claim your bag back and another part that you redeem for your hot chocolate finisher mug.

Races are a great reason to travel and see a new place at the same time!  I made a weekend of it and stayed in Roseville, just 7 miles from Downtown Minneapolis and then travelled in on the morning of the race.  I googled nearby parking lots (‘shop’ around for ones with the cheapest rates) and then walked to the park that the race was located in!

Info For The Minneapolis Hot Chocolate Run

Where I parked: St Anthony Main Lot 131 SE 2nd Ave – a large indoor car park about a mile away from Boom Island Park where the start/finish line is.  Cost $5 to park all day on a Saturday.

Where I stayed:  I was hosted by Roseville Visitors Association and stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott which was a 15 minute drive from Boom Island Park.  The fireplace in my room and the hot tub were much needed after a freezing cold run!

Downtown Minneapolis Race Route: I’m so sad that there was a blizzard during my race! The route went over Stone Arch Bridge, past Saint Anthony Falls and Mill Ruins Park.  If I could have seen them I would have been taking hundreds of pictures…which I guess was probably good for my race time, but at least I could have gone back once I finished!

Current cities that host the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K run

Denver Chicago Columbus Scottsdale
St Louis Tampa San Francisco Houston
Dallas Charlotte Nashville Atlanta
Seattle San Diego Indianapolis Philadelphia
Minneapolis

Would you sign up for a Hot Chocolate run?!  Here’s the link if you want to! Hot Chocolate 15K/5K

Kylie Signature

Hot Chocolate Run 5K Race Day Experience Minneapolis Minnesota

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