Tips for Hot Chocolate 5k Run – Chicago


Packet Pick-up at McCormick Place ’13

This Sunday morning, I’ll run at Hot Chocolate 5k Run in Chicago. This is my 2nd year and I wanted to list my tips for the new runners this year. Bear in mind that I am just a recreational runner as you read my list.

Last year, I ran at Hot Chocolate despite the overwhelming negative reviews about how bad the organization was in the last two years. I got lucky. I felt the organization went pretty smooth.

Last year, the race day was right after the daylight savings time change. I almost pulled a Jean-Paul that morning. My dear friend, with whom I was staying saved me the last minute. This time we are lucky that time change was last week.

Tips for Hot Chocolate 5k Runners

  1. Read the e-mails your receive about your corral, start time and packet pick-up time thoroughly. There is no race day packet pick-up. There will be a lot of detailed info about parking, street closures etc.
  2. Packet pick-up is at McCormick Place again this year. When I went there and picked my packet up without any wait last year. There will be lots of merchandise for purchase as well as hot chocolate with marshmallows. The only drawback is the parking fee at McCormick. In the e-mail, it states that parking will be $10 for up to 90 minutes, unless you forget to get your ticket validated before you leave the packet pick up.
  3. Go to bed early on Saturday night.
  4. Stay in downtown, close to Grant Park the night before the race day. Race starts early and you have to be at corrals even earlier, as in 6-6:30 am early. Do not sacrifice your sleep to commuting early in the morning.
  5. There will be a gear check area as well as lots of port-a-potties. Despite the crowd, there weren’t any lines in the morning last year.
  6. They start closing down streets pretty quickly. If someone is dropping you off, make sure they have an exit plan. Last year, my friend got stuck in between street closures and could not get back to her building in South Loop after dropping me off on LSD and Congress.
  7. Sunday’s weather forecast is partly cloudy, 50F which is very similar to last year’s. It is pretty decent for a race day. That said, 50F is the high which should happen in the afternoon. Low of Saturday night is 33F. Early in the morning will be colder by the lake. So bring a hat and light pair of gloves with you to keep your extremities warm. As per the e-mail from HC, you can take them off and ditch them at the start line or during the race course. Those hats and gloves will be donated.
  8. Last year’s runners’ hoodie was impressive. It is light but very warm. I love the long sleeves. I expect this year’s hoodies to be as good as last year’s.
  9. Fully charge your phone and do not expect to connect to social media at all or at least with normal speed. With 45k+ people trying to upload a photo on Facebook or Instagram by the start line, roaming gets crazy. Your battery will drain in seconds before you know it. You will not be able to connect to streaming music either. I’m afraid MapMyRun will suck up quite a bit of juice as well.
  10. Agree on a meeting point – a letter – with your friends and family after the race, because your phone charge might not make it until then. There is lettered “runners’ reunite” area by the hot chocolate fondue pick up tents.
  11. Enjoy the sunrise over the lake as you arrive to your corral near the start line as well as the scenic view during your run.
  12. Enjoy your hot chocolate fondue and take a lot of pictures in Grant Park with the skyline background.
  13. Keep in mind that some streets will still be closed after the race, especially if you ran the 5k.



Beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan before the race


Post race photos. I’m wearing last year’s hoodie in this picture.

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