This marked my third year participating in the the Hot Chocolate race series, the first year in the 5k race and the second and third years in the 15k races. The series has the tag line, “America’s Sweetest Race”. It 100% lives up to that name, and I wish everyday life was like the Hot Chocolate race. I meet the nicest people, and everyone is out there for a positive reason. It just doesn’t get any sweeter.
This year it started at the expo, where you pick up your packet. Everyone participating is so excited, and there are plenty of picture opportunities. I noticed that as people were getting their packets (this has your bib, a directions card, and your Hot Chocolate jacket), people were just chatting with what seemed to be strangers. As my husband asked me if I needed any new gear in the shopping section, it struck up a conversation with a lady I don’t even know about how we both dislike wearing gloves running. Then we just parted ways, wishing each other luck. Everyone is so happy at packet pick up, must be the free chocolate. The only bitter sweet part of the race this year, was that my running partner and sister, Maggie, was still unable to run with me. She is recovering from an injury. But she had her own way of making sure to be one of my biggest supporters. The night before she made sure I had everyone set up and ready, dropped off foam rollers to massage my legs after, and the day of the race sent me messages of encouragement. I would never have the guts to do races if it wasn’t for her constant support.
The day before the race it poured rain, which left the area quite squishy and muddy. There was definitely a chill in the air. But everyone that I saw was all smiles, and ready for a great run. I met up with some friends from work who were all running the 5k race, which starts before the 15k. So we took some fun pics before they started. I stood with Jim and Jeff (my friend Karrie’s husband), as they started the race. It was fun being on the side of it, and being able to yell and cheer for someone else starting off. Those ladies are a bunch of badasses, and I am so happy I could be a part of their race day. It made me pumped for my race, and once they went by I made sure to use the bathroom and stretch before it was my turn.
Once I reached my corral I had the usual nervousness, but I gave Jim a pre-run kiss and I was fine. While he went up to the starting line to wait for me to go by, I was able to take it all in. As I stretched and kept moving, I couldn’t help but notice a man fixing a woman’s hoodie in front of me. Then I was listening as she said, “Why am I doing this? I can’t do this.” As he just kept assuring her, “You’re going to be great! Just a fun run, just us.” That made me smile, because everyone has those moments of self doubt and having someone by your side on those times is vital. For me, my moment came after I started when I was coming back around Columbus Circle back past the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As I ran past I heard some cheering for me, well not some.. a LOT! My friends who had finished their 5k were standing with Jim on the corner waving and cheering me on. It’s a great feeling having people tell you that you’re going to rock it, and all this positive energy being thrown your way. I later told Jim I wish I could have taken a picture of everyone standing there cheering for me, but the mental picture and the support from my amazing friends is always with me.
During the actual run I love taking it all in. People are so nice to each other, and most of the time they have never met before that day. When the front of the pack hits the turn around, and you start to pass each other, people just start randomly cheering for each other. Every so often you’ll just hear clapping, and yelling, “Keep going! Great job!” There are always people who will hold their hands out for high fives. I love seeing all ages, sizes, and different kinds of people out there, and they all seem so completely supportive each other. Doesn’t matter if you are in front of the whole race, or you walk the entire thing, everyone is out there pushing themselves to the best of their abilities. Everyone out there is taking the time to do something positive for themselves, and why not be kind to others while they are at it. Plus the volunteers are always the nicest people ever. The pacer runners give you tons of tips while running, and will motivate you through the whole race. Then as you go through the water stops, they are all telling you how great you are and to make sure to hydrate. There are so many great people at every turn of the course. I personally was running, when I noticed the person a few feet in front of my had writing on their shirt, “I pray to God there is someone behind me reading this.” I felt the need, and I felt comfortable enough, to say to a complete stranger that I loved their shirt. Which start a brief conversation, she was either going to wear that one or one that read, “If I am on the ground and you are reading this, drag me to the finish.” Then as I am in the last mile, and I hear two women talking. One was trying to encourage the other by tell her about all that was at the end of the race, the chocolate covered marshmallows, rice crispy treats, cup of hot chocolate, etc. I had to chime in with, “You’re making me want to run faster!” They laughed and said, “That’s the whole point!” It’s the fun encounters that make it so much sweeter, and more enjoyable.
After the race everyone is congratulating everyone else. That’s when I got my medal, my free chocolate treats, and a hug and kiss from my man. Jim went to Whole Foods up the street, so there was sushi and macaroons for a post race treat for me. His support for me is another sweet part of the race. For the rest of the day people are telling you how awesome it is that you accomplished something. I feel awesome, and I am doing better at accepting the compliments. Everyone at work was talking about it on Monday, which kind of extended the fun a little bit. Other co-workers were telling us how great we did, and how we should be proud. I really am proud of myself too. Because you know what, it was a lot of fun, and I kicked ass at it. Counting down the days until next year.