After summer turns to fall and the holidays get closer, it becomes easier to get talked out of races. However, Hot Chocolate Chicago has become one of the most popular races not only in the area but in the country. This year’s race will be held Sunday November 9th with the Expo on Friday and Saturday.
CEO and Founder of RAM Racing Steve Ginsburg said when they originally launched the Hot Chocolate race it was timed out to be an ideal race for runners who completed the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. While this is still the case, it has grown to the point of attracting runners of all abilities, and has in past years featured more runners than the marathon. The Hot Chocolate 15K grew and added a 5K and is now in cities around the country, but the original in Chicago is still the largest of them all.
Ginsburg said there are two main features that bring attention to the Hot Chocolate Series. The first, and most obvious, is all of the things that go on in addition to the race. If heaps of chocolate aren’t enough to get most people’s attention, the gear, course and post-race events are some of the best year-round. The second part, Ginsburg said, is his behind the scenes team and top notch medical staff that takes care of each race along the series. Unlike most other race series, Ginsburg uses nearly the exact same staff at each one of the Hot Chocolate races, bringing them with him from city to city. This helps perfect the race atmosphere that sometimes suffers when trying to train new people, Ginsburg said.
One of those team members is Molly Chernick, a RAM Racing event director. Chernick said the sheer size of the Chicago race breaks their typical formula, but it also makes it one of the best. With upwards of 40,000 runners Chernick and the rest of the staff need to coordinate post-race festivities in roughly a quarter of the time as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. However even with these difficulties Chernick said they have plenty of activities planned for finishers.
For the first year ever, finishers of the 15K race will receive a medal. Shaped as a partially eaten Chocolate bar it is one of the more unique medals available for any race. After receiving their medals, runners will head into the post-race zone with a DJ congratulating the crowd. Held in Butler field, the post-race party features large televisions showing runners as they finish, music and a table more than 300 feet long full of chocolate. While Chernick said the chocolate and the always popular finisher mug filled with chocolate and an assortment of foods to dip in the chocolate fondue is usually the first stop for runners after their race, the party lasts for hours after that as runners enjoy the festivities.
Before they can dive in to the chocolate, runners will enjoy one of the few races that are actually held on the Chicago streets. The race starts from Grant Park going north to the Chicago River then west to Clark and south from there. Runners of the 15K will stay south 31st while 5K runners turn East on Roosevelt before returning to Grant Park. 15K runners will turn east on 31st and work their way to the lakefront which will bring them back to Grant Park.
The marathon attracts a wide variety of running ability, so therefore Hot Chocolate does as well, added in with non-marathon runners who are signed up for the 15K the race features runners of all levels. Chernick said they work hard to make sure that new and inexperienced runners have every opportunity possible to learn the important details about the race. Everything from figuring out a start corral and using gear check to not running in too large of groups preventing other runners from passing is covered in emails leading up to the race. They also have a teaching zone at their Expo at McCormick Place.
Like many races, Hot Chocolate works with charities to help give back while hosting an event. The Ronald McDonald House Charities works with Hot Chocolate at all of their races. Last year Ginsburg said they raised around $250,000 for RMHC and hope to one day raise $1 million. Locally, the race also works with Walk for Little City.
In their 7th year Hot Chocolate promises to once again be one of the feature races in Chicagoland. For more information on the race and to register, visithotchocolate15k.com/Chicago.