Sunday I did the Hot Chocolate 15K in Columbus, OH. This series has races in about 12 different cities across the United States.
To pick up our packets at the expo, there were a bunch of lines and we could get into any line — they assigned a bib number as you checked in. Then a sticker with my name and corral was stuck to the front of the bib. Very efficient!
Each participant was handed a cinch sack with a jacket wrapped in plastic inside the sack. Near the pick up, there was an area to try on a jacket in the size you ordered and an area to exchange for a different size. (You cannot exchange a jacket after you take it out of the plastic bag.) This is much more common in races, and I love it! Unfortunately, they did not have any size small jackets to try on, and there were no jackets in size small to exchange for. (The woman working that area said the only jackets they had were already exchanged. Really? Then how did you get the huge box of jackets behind you? You had to start with something.)
The expo was small, but that was OK. The last time I did this race, the music was blasting so loud, I walked out immediately. This year was much better.
When we headed toward the start race morning, there were tons of port-a-johns. The race had two start times: the first was for corrals A-E I think, the second went through M. We were in L, so we could watch the first start.
When I did this race a couple of years ago, every single corral had signs that said “No Walkers.” I contacted the company, and they assured me it was a mistake, that when they switched over the corrals, they “forgot” to remove the signs. Well, I guess they “forgot” again because every corral had signs. Oh, well. I guess they don’t want me in their race.
It was chilly — in the high 20s low 30s. Because the cold front was sudden, I wasn’t acclimated and it felt so much colder than it really was.
The beginning of the race was very organized. Corrals A-E were released one at at time with a couple of minutes in between. Unfortunately, the last few corrals were too crowded to fit everyone in, and a couple corrals seemed to be released at the same time. There were way too many people. (The sound system was horrible, so who knows what was being said. In the back we heard nothing.) It seems as if several people ahead of us lied about their pace, too. The prerace instructions said all participants needed to maintain a 15 min pace — there were tons of people in corrals in front of us who were barely walking an 18-min mile.
Though the start was crowded and horrible for those of us in the back, the course was great. It started on Spring Street, then turned north on High Street. I always love walking on High Street through the Short North and into campus. We turned onto campus and past the stadium and then south. We eventually wound through Victorian Village and near Goodale Park. There are beautiful homes through here that make a race fun.
There were about five “aid” stations throughout the race, but every one we reached had run out of food. I don’t typically want chocolate chips or marshmallows in a race, but it would have been nice for there to have been some for those of us in the last two corrals.
The finish was in the Arena District and the 15K participants received nice medals! The after party was in McPherson Park, a nice large, grassy area. Unfortunately, the staff was starting to tear things down when we got there. When we got in line to get our hot chocolate and hot fudge, there were only three lines open, and they were very long and very slow. It was frustrating after finishing a race in cold weather.
The hot fudge was delicious and the hot chocolate was needed! There was lots of room, but very few people hung around for the party. Not only was it cold, I think it is more geared toward the 5K participants.
Overall, this is a well organized race. The wave start really helped with the congestion, but it seemed as if there should have been more separation at the end. The course was great and there were plenty of water stops. The medals are very nice and I like the jacket. Packet pickup is pretty efficient.
There are a few dings with this race I’m not sure I can deal with. The first is that there were no size small jackets to try on at the expo. The second wave corrals were way too packed and the “No Walkers” signs are insulting. Unfortunately, the “aid” stations were empty by the time we got to them. The lines for the hot chocolate were ridiculous. It felt as if they were not prepared for a race this large.
Despite the race claiming participants needed to maintain at least a 15-min mile to participate, there were tons of very slow walkers and runners — many of them in the wrong corrals and unaware of basic race etiquette. It made this feel much more like an “event” than a “race”. This is fine if you are aware it is an event, but a pace limit usually indicates more of a competitive race. Plus all of the negative signage was off-putting: No Walkers, No Standing, No Sitting… Seriously, what AM I allowed to do.
If you like to do races just for the fun of it, you will probably enjoy this one. People who love the Color Run or other untimed events will probably think this is great.
However, if you are a walker who does not want to be treated like a second-class citizen, or if you like to go fast, this might not be the race for you.