Race: Hot Chocolate 15k/5k
Distance: 15k (9.3 miles)
Number of runners: 15,000 (30,000 combined with the 5k)
Course: South, starting at Columbus and Balbo, turning around at about 45th Street
Weather: 32* at start, sunny, no wind
Overall Grade: C
I woke up on Saturday morning ready to run! I ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich, drank 2 big glasses of water, got dressed, stretched, and headed out the door. I did a jog to the start line only a few blocks from my condo to the biggest mass of people ever. The 5k runners were already in the start corrals...well, what seemed like all of them...many were still trying to get thru when us 15k runners were allowed in the corrals. I waited patiently for the start of the 5k and for all of the 5k runners to get over the start line. Twenty minutes after the horn blew they finally cleared out and the gates were opened up for the 15k runners to line up. There were plenty of people finishing the 5k before some crossed the start line!
Another 15-20 minutes later the sun was getting up in the sky and the 15k was officially started! I started my Garmin right when crossing the start line, but silly me forgot to look at the race clock to see how much later I was starting. Within 200 yards of starting there were walkers...and not just 1 or 2, groups of walkers. Not a good sign. There was also a guy finishing the 5k yelling "Be careful at mile 3! Be careful at mile 3!" I ran south on Columbus, entering onto Lake Shore Drive wondering what was at mile 3 that would be dangerous. I came upon the first mile marker at about 10:06 or so which was great for my warm up mile. In mile two there were some bad turns where people were running into each other and we ran thru the McCormick Place garage which succeeded in throwing off nearly every Garmin, including my own. Right before the 2 mile mark the first aid station appeared and I ran right thru it since I was still warming up and because, well, I don't think water is needed not even 2 miles into a run. However, we are all different so I understand some people need some fluid!
Now, I was still wondering about what that guy was yelling about and a few tenths of a mile before mile 3 I found out. Quickly. We were going to be running down an exit ramp onto Lake Shore Drive (again), however, there was only 1 lane available. Construction was taking up the normally 2 lane ramp and on the right side were trees and bushes and dirt. Here I am running along and all of a sudden I'm nearly tripping over a curb and shoulder to shoulder with the other runners. Many of us said "F*ck it" and ran in the dirt with the trees and a few holes in the ground. Yikes. Talk about a bottleneck! Little did we know there were a few more in store for us!
Just before mile 4 was the next aid station and I ran thru the first half since I didn't want Gatorade. I got to the water section and stopped and walked, drinking 2 cups of water. I tossed them in the garbage can and took off, now on a trail on the lakefront. We get to the turn around, which was just in the middle of grass, no trail or concrete turn around. This didn't bother me but many people on the Hot Chocolate 15k Facebook page complained about it. What did bother me was the trail we were forced to run for the next mile or so. It was rocks. Not little rocks like pebbles, but big rocks. I nearly fell and twisted my ankle a few times, but it wasn't until I read the numerous comments about people who did twist their ankles and 1 or 2 who actually broke their ankles falling along this part of the course, that I realized I was lucky. Going back north was all along the lake front path, which was packed with so many runners. I, along with several others, ran along side the path on the grass and dirt with the trees. I took some Gatorade and water at the next water station (which was only 1.5 miles after the last one) and I just kept on running. The water station was LONG...it slowed me down a lot and I knew I wanted to make up for it. I decided to skip the last water station and pick up the pace a little bit.
A few bottlenecks later we were nearing the end! I quick run around the Shedd Aquarium (another massive bottleneck) and we hit the 9 mile mark! Up ahead were some photographers atop a crane and we all cheered as we got ready for a small hill and then the straight away to the finish! I crossed the finish and stopped my Garmin, which said my time was 1:31:31 but also said I ran 9.45 miles instead of 9.3. I grabbed a bottle of water and headed to take my finishers photo and then to the fondue tent! They handed out plastic trays with some apple slices, marshmellows, a square of rice krispy, a square of pound cake, a pretzel rod, and something else and at the end of the line you got a big ol' scoop of melted chocolate to dip it all in! I got to dipping right away while I walked around the post-race party and enjoyed every second of eating. Too bad that it was so chilly out because the chocolate cooled off really fast. I ditched my tray into a garbage can and went home.
I went online for my race results and they weren't posted. Checked a few hours later...nothing. Race results weren't posted until the next day. Now, I know that this race is still new but RAM RACING sponsors many other races in Chicago/Chicagoland so they know what they are doing. I couldn't believe that the results took so long to post! Overall, I had a great run, but there needs to be many changes made if I'm going to run it again next year. The 15k should start before the 5k (as many other races do when there is a long and a short run) and there needs to be a "WALKERS" corral and the corrals need to be seeded and started at different times. 8 minute mile runners start at 8, 9 minute mile runners start at 8:05, etc etc because the bottlenecks and the course overall cannot accommodate everybody starting at the exact same time. I also saw 2 people running with strollers! It was clearly stated that strollers were not allowed but obviously not enforced. It was a bit disappointing for the money I spent on the race and I would love to do the race again but I will definitely be going back and forth if I should actually do it or not.