I did it. I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k in Philadelphia.
Now, I’m perfectly aware that some of my friends run all the time and that moving consistently over 3.1 miles is not an unusual accomplishment. I’m even more aware that my time is nothing amazing (I’ve done better myself on non-race outings) and that my running is more like a slow-to-medium jog. But the race was still a triumph for me.
It didn’t start out that way. We parked around 6 a.m. It was dark. It was misty. It was cold. Various weather apps told me that although the temperature was around 40° F, it “felt like” 30°. The race wouldn’t start for over an hour.
We made it to Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum and found our corral. They wouldn’t open up until a little before 7. So we stood there and shivered. I discovered that the awesome swag jacket had thin panels of fabric to help dissipate heat while you ran. Those thin panels were not my friends on race morning.
I convinced my running partner to get in the corral as soon as they opened. My thinking was that it would soon fill up with racers and I’d be surrounded by body warmth. Despite my gloves, hat, jacket hoodie and headband, I remained cold.
Eventually the corrals filled up and the race started at 7:15. Well, it started for people in Corral A. My slow-poke group would have to wait 4 minutes for each group ahead of us to go. We slowly inched to the start line and around 7:40, we were off.
The announcer said 12,852 people signed up for both the 5k and 15k. I doubt all of them showed up but the Benjamin Franklin parkway was crowded. The first half mile was tough to navigate thanks to the number of people running. It didn’t help that very few people paid attention to the etiquette of slower people to the right. We probably ran more than a 5k if you include moving around slower people.
I had some calf pain and ended up walking sooner than I wanted, albeit at a pretty fast walk. I alternated running and walking through most of the course.
The course took us out and back along the Schuylkill River on Martin Luther King Drive. The road, along with part of the Parkway, had been closed for the race. For those of you who have never run on MLK Drive, let me tell you that the road is tilted slightly toward the river. It’s not a dangerous tilt, but I definitely felt it.
The crowds thinned out a little by the end of the 1st mile. I still had to weave in and out a bit, but I tried to move to the right when I slowed down.
We hit a water stop a little before the turnaround. The water was super cold thanks to the weather and I picked up a small cup of M&Ms. After the turnaround, I scored a cup of chocolate wafers. No marshmallows in sight. The candy joined my gloves and headband in my pockets.
After the turnaround it was easier to pass people since the other side of the road (where we ran on the way out) was pretty empty. The finish line was in front of the art museum’s steps (you’ve seen them in Rocky) after a hill. It wasn’t a big hill, but the incline went on for a while. The finish wasn’t that far after it leveled out so no time to catch your breath – just finish strong.
No negative splits for me this run. I was disappointed with my time since the last 2 practice runs had been a lot faster. My motivation was lacking, and the hill slowed me down. That’s not fun for a casual runner like me. I don’t know how the 15k runners managed it. I don’t know how the winning 15k racer finished the race just about when I crossed the finish line. That’s speedy!
Sadly, the area for the post-race party and finisher mug pickup was very muddy from the previous night’s rain. that didn’t stop me from getting my goodies. The hot chocolate tasted awesome after the run. The fondue was ok, but cooling quickly. We had a banana, cookies, pretzels, rice krispie treats, and a marshmallow to dip. The mug’s a thin plastic so I’m not sure what future use it will have, but it’s at home anyways. No medal for the 5k finishers.
Would I do this again? Sure. The race swag was nice and it was a fun experience. Or at least it will be once I lose the memory of the hour of standing in the cold. I’m happy that I did it.
Next up is a 5k through the Philadelphia Zoo at the end of April.