It’s touted as “America’s Sweetest Race”; plenty of “Will Run For Chocolate” merchandise; and your goody bag is a technical hooded sweatshirt. What’s not to like about the San Diego Hot Chocolate Run?!
The answer is simply, nothing! From the time I registered for the event until I crossed the finish line, Ram Racing and the Hot Chocolate run kept me informed and updated on what to expect on and before race day. They sent weekly “Fun Fact Friday” emails that actually were fun and informative; your race confirmation that needed to be printed and brought to packet pickup (so if you missed it the first week you still got it the next); and easy to follow directions for parking.
Picking up your bib number at the expo was extremely easy and hassle free. They scanned the confirmation email you were supposed to bring, printed out a label with your name and info and attached it to bib. No waiting in A-L or M-Z lines – you could go right up to anyone that was open, which most of them were. Packet pickup was both Friday and Saturday which I’m sure helped ease congestion. Although not nearly the size of a Rock-n-Roll event, the expo was fun and festive with loud music, friendly volunteers and a good amount of vendors. Your goody bag was truly just a hooded technical sweatshirt – no coupons, flyers or samples of any sort. But the drawstring bag and sweatshirt were just fine and more than made up for any samples we could’ve received.
My girlfriend and I got to the race start in plenty of time for the 5k she was running; I had to wait another hour for the start of the 15k. My husband had our 1-1/2 year old and found it difficult to maneuver around, find coffee, etc., but that’s from a spectator’s perspective. From a racers viewpoint, I found it well organized with plenty of porta-potties with very short lines! Bravo! I was disappointed that I could not watch my friend finish her first 5k as I had to line up for my race, which I got to 20 seconds before the start! Whew!
The course was tough – very hilly, yet many beautiful area’s we ran through. Mile markers were easy to see with the time displayed. Although I carry my own fuel, there were aid stations every couple miles that seemed to be very well stocked with both Gatorade and water and plenty of friendly volunteers to hand them out. It wasn’t until the end that I realized we did not get a finisher’s medal but a “mug” instead. That, I would say, is my only real dissatisfaction with the race. I understand them wanting to do something different but most runners (myself included) just love having that finisher’s medal to proudly display, even if for just a few hours on race morning. The mug held a cup of hot chocolate, half a banana, rice crispy treat, a few pretzels, and some chocolate fondue for dipping (it did not resemble the photo). I did drink the hot chocolate, my daughter got the pretzels then the cheesy plastic “finisher’s mug” went into the garbage. They did have a finish line festival with a kids area, live DJ and music playing but I did not see any of it since my friend and husband had been waiting for a while so we just left.
I finished the race in 1:14:56, an 8:02 average which was a very nice surprise considering all the hills. Although I didn’t place in my age bracket, that time was good enough for 18th out of 489 women in the 40-44 age group, putting me in the top 4% of my field.
All in all, I feel it was a very well organized event with some different perks to it and would recommend it to any runner who doesn’t mind running hills and not receiving a finisher’s medal.