The Hot Chocolate 15K/5K event in Seattle last Sunday (March 3) was, by all signs, another rousing success. More than 9,800 runners and walkers did either the 5K (3.1 miles) or 15K (9.3 miles). That’s a slight decline from the 2017 and 2016 races that I did, but still a good turnout.
The weather was again chilly but dry. There was cool swag, free race pictures, well-marked courses, lots of volunteers, and a participation rate that was nearly 75 percent women. All similar to previous years. In its sixth year in Seattle, the Hot Chocolate event remains one of the city’s largest road runs (though nowhere as big as the one-off Tunnel to Viaduct 8K in February).
But what I will remember most about my third time doing this run is how good the chocolate tasted. I decided this year to sit down and enjoy it — to take my post-race chocolate bowl of goodies inside the nearby Seattle Center Armory and focus on eating and drinking everything in it. That included downing the hot chocolate drink, then dipping my banana, cookie, marshmallow, and pretzels — everything — in the delicious melted chocolate fondue provided.
It was as satisfying as you might expect after a 5K run. The day before, at the event expo to get my race bib and swag, I prepared by squandering all the freshly made samples I could get. I couldn’t get enough.
Yes, I like chocolate. And this event does a good job of providing chocolate as your reward for taking part in this early morning run. It’s a formula that works in 19 cities across the U.S., where thousands of others in this national series of races are running for chocolate.
Now, about that start time
My only complaint with the event locally is the 6:45 a.m. start time for the 5K. To get to the starting line (and Corral E) at the Seattle Center near downtown on time, I must get out of bed in the middle of the night. The companion 15K race starts at 7:55 a.m., which is more reasonable but still early.
I’m not sure why these races need to start so early, but it could be because race organizers must have all participants off the public streets by noon. I don’t know that, but it is plausible. With nearly 6,000 running the 5K and more than 4,000 the 15K, such large volumes make running the races concurrently out of the question on the two-lane streets involved. So they need to get two back-to-back races done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But 6:45 a.m. for a race in downtown Seattle is still too early for me.
Both courses are out-and-back jaunts up Aurora Avenue (Highway 99), away from the new Highway 99 Tunnel that we ran through in the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K last month. The Hot Chocolate 5K course, mercifully, turns around before the Aurora Bridge and before runners have to do much hill climbing up Aurora.
The 15K course takes you up Aurora past the crest of the hill and then downhill on the other side to Green Lake. So you scale that hill coming back and end up climbing two tough hills in the run.
The long hill going up Aurora in the 15K is especially challenging and tedious. I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in 2017 and labored up the hill, eagerly awaiting the turnaround point. The course then was slightly different; we ran to the crest of the hill and then turned around to make our way back. The 2019 course — minus the Alaskan Way Viaduct being torn down and the now-closed Battery Street Tunnel — had runners going all the way north to the northwest corner of Green Lake before turning around.
Joined by R.J. and Hayley, who ran the 15K
Two of my runner pals from Allytics, R.J. Taylor and Hayley Halstead, ran the 15K again, with R.J. getting 24th out of 324 in her age group. Great job, you two!!! Both were just starting their race as I was sitting down to enjoy my chocolate. I have pictures of them from the free runner photos that the race organizers provided again in 2019.
I was happy to stick with the shorter race, and finished in 39:26 (12:42 per mile). That earned me 2,295th place of 5,822 5K runners — wow, upper half! The time is, well, what it is. I will never do as well on a course with hills as I will on a flat course. (My 5K PR is 24:32 in 2005.) Full results are here.
I must say a word about the runners’ jackets that come with your entry fee. These are always nice jackets and I wear the ones I got in 2016 and 2017 a lot; just not for running. The 2019 coats are made of tech fabric and more versatile, in my opinion. You can wear them for running as well as for casual dress.
Black is an OK color for the men’s jackets; I like the color of the red jackets the women got a little better.
Most running events provide you with running shirts. I have about 300 of those stuffed everywhere (ask my wife). It is nice to do an event where the key swag is a jacket instead of a shirt.
What’s next: My 40th half-marathon
This was my 227th road run in 18 years of doing races. That includes 21 marathons and 39 half-marathons. I am planning to run Half No. 40 on March 24 — the Mercer Island Half-Marathon. I’ve done this run 13 times, so I know the course pretty well.
After that, I’m looking for bicycle rides and road runs to do in April. I skipped the Chilly Hilly ride in late February to avoid a cold, rainy ride. The Cascade Bicycle Club’s Ride for Major Taylor on April 20 and Seattle Bike-n-Brews ride on May 5 should be warmer rides that I haven’t done as many times as the Chilly Hilly.
Looking forward to spring! Thanks for reading.