I registered for Albuquerque’s Hot Chocolate 15k immediately upon hearing of its existence. My wise sister Erin told me about it, and my response mirrored hers: “Running? Chocolate? Yes.”
My excitement was tempered shortly thereafter when I heard about D.C.’s version of the Hot Chocolate 15k. That event achieved fame, for, er, unfortunate reasons. So I approached race weekend warily.
The weekend started well; packet pick-up went smoothly. The goodie bag included a snazzy windbreaker instead of the usual t-shirt, and everyone got free samples of … yes … CHOCOLATE. As Erin and I munched pretzels and licked chocolate fondue off our fingers, I said “You know, I really like this event so far.”
Race morning arrived and in the blink of a bleary eye (okay, maybe a few blinks) we were parked in a prime spot downtown. The three of us – Erin’s hubby gallantly served as our escort during the run, by which I mean “ensured we didn’t bee-line for the chocolate and possibly injure other people before the race even started” – joined the runner-masses. Bravo, by the way, to the lady dressed as a cup of cocoa, complete with marshmallows. I don’t know if the marshmallows were real, but what a glorious mid-race snack that would have been.
The 5k began without a hitch, and then it was our turn. I didn’t have any particular goal in mind for this race – I had just run a half marathon two weeks prior, so I wasn’t sure how my legs would do. Erin was amenable to my “let’s just see how we feel” philosophy, so that seemed settled.
With the announcer’s promise of as much chocolate as we could handle after the race [poor silly man; he’s never seen me in Ghirardelli Square], we took off. I loved the course. It circled around Old Town, went by the zoo, through cute residential neighborhoods, and straight through the heart of downtown. Each turn was ridiculously well-marked, which I appreciated. Orienteering during a race is not my cup of tea.
We ran a wee bit faster than anticipated. It was the classic “Well, I could stand to ease off a little, but she’s not slowing down, so I won’t slow down,” which continued for roughly the entire race. But we survived! And got 5th and 6th place among the women! I beat my sis by one second. You can’t coach desire for chocolate.
After doing the requisite finish area stagger-dance, we followed what seemed an irresistible gravitational pull. Before I quite realized it, I was clutching the famous Finisher’s Mug. The mug was divided into sections: one section, pretzels and marshmallows. Another section, a banana. Another section: gooey, wonderful chocolate fondue. And the middle section? A snug nest for a cup of cocoa.
Not too shabby for a cool-down snack.
One thing that really impressed me, other than the refreshments, was the swift, efficient distribution of awards. No one had to wait around for a formal ceremony. Not many races can say that.
I didn’t stress about the Hot Chocolate 15k. I kept my expectations fairly low, and was VERY pleasantly surprised. Like when you find more fudge at the bottom of a sundae. Or when you find chocolate in the middle of a peanut butter cookie. Or a chocolate-covered cherry.
You get the idea.