Hot Chocolate races are one of my favorite race circuits around…that’s why I’m a race ambassador for them. I run a LOT of races (as you can see from my blog) and they are superior in almost every way.
Where else will you get all of these things included with registration?
- Race jacket
- Free race photos
- Guaranteed finish line snacks
- Fondue at the race expo
- Plenty of marshmallows, oreos, and pirouettes to go around
I always have a lot of fun at these races because the fields are naturally smaller, so you get lots of room but never feel lonely on the course. There is plenty of signage so it is pretty much impossible to get lost on course. The competitive folks stay up front, and you’ll likely never get elbowed by aggressive runners looking to claim their latest PR (personal record).
The 5K races are held typically right before the 15K race. They provide a 45-minute cutoff. Theoretically, some runners could actually run and race both. One day I will definitely try it. I kind of wish they’d provide an extra medal for those runners. For instance, I believe that Dopey was once that way. During WDW Marathon weekend, some overly enthusiastic runners decided to register for all of the races since they happened on consecutive days. After a few years, Disney caught on and turned it into an official challenge (and thus a way to collect a little more money). Now that I think of it, I should totally pitch them on this idea. I feel like the completionists in the community would then barter for a 1K race so that they could complete 21K (equivalent to a half marathon).
Anywho, on to Denver’s race this year…
As we all know, 2020 (and part of 2021) shut down the majority of races. This was a comeback race for the Hot Chocolate series, since it is the first of the season. It was a big deal for the running community as well since we lost the Rock n Roll Denver half marathon. I had family who flew in for the race, which was very nice.
The day before the race, I worked the legacy booth at the expo. I sewed up a sparkly skirt specifically for the event. In the past two years, IVF meds have really taken a toll on my body so I needed something a little bigger and free flowing. The skirt ended up being a little too big for me, so I had to pin it during the race. (My subsequent skirts have fit much better!)
The expo was as expected. This was a little on the smaller side, most likely because of less vendors and the supply chain issue the world has been dealing with. Per usual there was the individual fondue cups and individually wrapped chocolates. The volunteers working the food booths were all very strict with masks and gloves. There was hand sanitizer everywhere. I was pretty confident in the health/safety measures so I grabbed a few yums before heading to my booth for the day. I worked the legacy booth for the day, which was fun because I got to meet a lot of folks who ran lots of races, like me. This year’s prize was really nice – hot chocolate mugs. I too got a mug in 2020 but it was ceramic. There were a few folks who were upset that they lost their legacy status last year because of cancelled races. However, if they ran the virtual race they were able to keep their status. I was lucky enough to squeeze in Hot Chocolate Seattle in 2020. Otherwise I’m pretty sure I would’ve missed those announcements and lost my legacy status too. Aside from that, the expo was pretty smooth.
About a week before the race, the city of Denver made an announcement that they were shutting down Civic Center Park. This is a park located downtown where almost every running race starts. Every year I’ve ran Rock n Roll Denver and Hot Chocolate Denver we’ve started at Civic Center Park. It was in really rough shape due to the pandemic, and for health and safety reasons was completely closed off. The Hot Chocolate race ended up moving to Washington Park, which was a plenty fine venue but it has very limited neighborhood parking. I parked at the RTD station about a mile away and walked in, and it worked just fine.
It was a very sunny but cool morning. I left my jacket behind since I knew it would be warmer as the race progressed. Because of my Dopey training though, I had to get in an early morning run before this one. Because I needed to round out 15 miles in one day, I started with a 6 mile run very early in the morning, and then went home to wash up and get changed for a 9.3 mile run afterwards.
The course went through various neighborhoods and was protected the entire way by security. The trees were not yet turning so they were still all green and made for the perfect backdrop to all of our race photos. Per usual, there were plenty of fondue cups and photographers to go around. No runners left behind here!