**Disclaimer: When I first was flirting with the idea of running I searched running blogs and stumbled about a recap of the Hot Chocolate 15K in San Diego. The idea of running AND getting chocolate at the finish line inspired me to pursue running full time. So, I may have had somewhat high expectations for the race.
Packet pickup times were at the expo at Soldier Field basically all day on Friday and Saturday. I opted to go over on Saturday and arrived around 1 p.m. The line seemed never ending but thankfully it seemed to be moving quickly.
Rather than pre-assigned bib numbers, we were given a number assignment when we checked in. I thought this system probably helped packet pickup run smoother and was a good idea.
I was assigned the S corral, so I was pretty much as far away from the race start as possible. I had to push my way through the crowds to get to the corral. Once I reached my assigned corral it was easy enough to get inside and it wasn't too crowded.
And then we waited for an hour and 20 minutes to get to the start. That part seriously sucked. I know that they were trying to eliminate congestion on the course, but this part was no fun considering it was only 37 degrees out! Why not have the 5K start at a different time and/or place?
Once we start running though the dodging wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. I hung back a bit to try and find my pace in order to minimize the stress of trying to get around walkers, etc.
The course took us up Columbus and under upper Wacker. Going underneath the road caused my GPS to go a bit haywire so for the rest of the races my GPS was running anywhere from .25 to .4 ahead of the rest of the race. I was bummed about that because I really wanted to run a sub 11 minute race, and my GPS watch was thinking I was doing 8 minute miles?!
I actually really liked how the course water and Gatorade stations were laid out. They had all the water together then a little further along they had all the Gatorade. Usually I want to get a cup of each and it's hard to grab both when everything is grouped so closely together!
The course ran down Michigan Ave and was well marked where the 15K/5K split was. I noticed the loud speakers had repeating directions which was nice. The directions were played both at the split and the end during the looong walk to the chocolate.
The 5Kers headed back on Columbus and we headed on down S. Lakeshore Drive towards Soldier Field.
There were two stretches where we were running underground and the GPS went haywire again. I ate my only gel about 5 miles into the race. I was really hoping there would be gels given out or at least chocolate but there was only the Gatorade and water.
We had to cross S. Lakeshore Dr. and the turnaround took us down the Lakeshore path and back towards Solder Field again. We ran past the football stadium and around Shed Museum. Soon enough we are back at the finish area! The annoying thing was that there was announcer desperately trying to get us to smile for our finish photos and he actually ran right in front of me and blocked my path. This was really annoying because I wanted to spring my finish since I wanted to finish with an under 11 minute pace!
1 hr 42 min 51 sec
Pace 11 min 03 sec
So close to my goal! The finish was pretty sparse as the chocolate and was pretty far away. There were still lines of people waiting to get their finisher's chocolate but there were plenty of volunteers and I didn't have to wait that long (once I actually got to the chocolate tent).
All in all I doubt I'd do this race again unless a friend asked me to do it with her (because I can never say no to a race).