Talk about a sweet race. Okay, okay….. I can just see the eye rolls. But all terrible puns aside, this race is truly a fantastic one.
Sis has been telling me I just HAD to try this race. They have two legs, a 15k or a 5k that runs through downtown Atlanta. But the best part of it all, a delicious chocolate goodie bag at the end.
Luckily, the weekend hubby and I decided to join, it was an unusually “warmer” race. In the past, since this race is held in January, it has been near-snowing at time. Honestly, I was a little nervous about running in such cold temps, but I’m always willing to be adventurous. However, a week before race day, I had to do a mad search for cold weather running gear. Sure, it gets cold in Florida, but not THAT cold. But, we lucked out. The weather promised to be chilly, but not reaching anywhere near icicles, and rainy. Ugh.
When we arrived in Atlanta, sis and I set off to Dick’s Sporting Goods to the boating equipment section. We both found pretty cheap cell phone covers to use just in case we were in a deluge like the weather channel promised. Hubby had signed up for the 5k and since sis and I were tackling the 15k, I knew we would never find him after the race. (Check out my race tips below for that one.) So, with our waterproof cell phone covers in hand, we were ready to take on the expo.
True to its name, the Hot Chocolate expo was full of delicious chocolate treats to eat and fun swag to buy. They offer hot chocolate, mini chocolate bites and anything to quench your sweet tooth. Most of the standard race booths were at this expo and I was pretty impressed. Hubby was also able to switch out his race sweatshirt here – which by the way is an awesome hoodie with thumb holes! Total score. Sis and I also bought our first Bondi Bands with the Hot Chocolate logo on it. Check out these super cute head bands! Although it did tend to slip on my hair, bobbi pins are the key to keeping these in place.
The next day, after a pretty good night’s rest, we set off for downtown Atlanta. Fortunately, sis had an in on a great downtown parking spot, so we set off super early and scored a great parking space. By the time we got there, we learned that there was no more rain! We couldn’t believe it! So we left our plastic baggies and new cell phone covers in the car and set off toward the race start.
I think everyone in Atlanta and all of its surrounding cities were at this race. It was PACKED and I mean PACKED. I had heard about the popularity of this race, but I hadn’t expected quite this crowd.
Hubby was in a different corral than we were. He was quite a few corrals behind us, since he was running the 5k. At first I was contemplating on how to sneak him into our corral, but we just left well enough alone. We decided this would work in our favor. By the time we reached our 5k mark, he would be just starting his.
We took off at a great pace. For a short time, everyone is running together. Then, at a couple of miles in, the 15k runners break off into a different course. Well, this was sis’s first year running the 15k soooooo she had no clue about the dreaded hills we were about to tackle. And when I say hills, I think baby mountains would be more accurate. In the beginning, when we were fresh, the hills were all right, but, as we started to fatigue, the hills were beginning to grow in size. It felt like at every corner, we were coming up on yet another hill. By mile 8, sis was on the verge of having a baby meltdown. In fact, she was about two seconds from plopping down on the concrete and waving a white flag. But like a trooper, she pushed on.
On some positive notes, you do run through some very cool parts of downtown Atlanta I would never have ventured to on my own. One guy was sitting out on his beautiful condo balcony with his French doors open, a roaring fire on his TV, and jazz music drifting out onto the street. Whoever you are, thanks for that little pick-me-up I needed about halfway through the race. Others came out to watch the runners and some even made little motivational signs! Got to love this genuine southern hospitality.
When we finally reached the finish line, which by the way was FINALLY downhill, I called hubby where he directed us to Centennial Park. It’s here that our chocolate goody bag awaited us. Seriously, I am not a huge chocolate junky like some others, but this was ah-mazing. In fact, so amazing, I ate every morsel in the bowl. Warning – do not attempt this unless you’re a professional sweets eater. I had an awful stomach ache post-race because of this. Not only does your bowl come with a cup of hot chocolate, but it has chocolate fondue with a banana, a Rice Krispie Treat and other delicious dipping snacks.
All in all, even though the 15k was a much bigger challenge than I had expected, I loved it and I’ll be going back for more. In fact, hubby even said to me the other day, hey, when are we doing that Hot Chocolate race again?
Parking, parking, parking….. this is a definite source of angst when running in this particular race. If it’s offered, the Marta is always a great option. If not, carpool. Parking is extremely limited downtown.
Be prepared for hills. Do I even need to elaborate on this? I never in my life knew that downtown Atlanta could hold so many grueling hills.
Traffic. Yes, if you’re tackling the 15k, you will run into some traffic. Honestly, the locals trying to navigate downtown Atlanta are pretty patient with the runners, but you will always have your few that don’t make life easy. Just keep your eyes open and watch for the race volunteers that are in the area, helping to direct you through the traffic.
If you lose your running buddy, designate a meeting spot in Centennial Park. Sure, this sounds like a no-brainer, but finding a good spot post-hot-chocolate-goody-bag will make your life so much easier. Take it from someone who failed to do this.
Note-worthy restaurants in the area
Flying Biscuit. A delicious twist on a typical southern breakfast. A perfect post-race spot to grab a cup of coffee.
Dutch Monkey Donuts. It’s a bit of a drive from downtown Atlanta, but depending on how far you’re willing to go for a donut, it might be worth every mile. I mean, you did just run 10 miles…
Home Grown Ga. A local establishment in a house that looks…. well, let’s just say you wouldn’t just drive by and decide to pop in necessarily. But talk about a place where you can find the southern breakfast your grandma used to cook.