Last Sunday, I ran in the Hot Chocolate 15K St. Louis. All of us finishers probably would have rather had frozen hot chocolate, because the conditions were quite warm! Well, that is warm for St. Louis in the middle of December. At the 7:30AM start, my phone said the temperature was 48 degrees! I am pretty positive we will never get a better day than this to run this race in future years.
I was unsure on what to wear for this race, but eventually I settled on shorts and a Nike running hoodie that I got from Justin for my birthday. I definitely could have just worn a short-sleeved shirt and been comfortable, but I just rolled up the sleeves when I got heated during the race and that was fine.
I arrived to the start line at about 7:15AM and I was very giddy when I got to go to Corral A for the start! I had seen A on my tag earlier, but I didn’t remember this race having corrals last year so I honestly wasn’t sure why it was there haha. The corrals went to at least letter J, so I’m not gonna lie – I felt pretty special being in the first corral. I also felt a teensy-bit out of place because as I looked around me, the other runners looked pretty intense. But then I figured, I got put in this corral because of my expected time (that I did not lie about), so I belonged here with these other runners.
I didn’t have to wait around long, because the race starting promptly at 7:30 AM. I started my music, began to run, crossed the official start line, and then BAM! I almost ran right into a Hot Chocolate 15K photographer. He was crouched down taking pictures right in the middle about 2 feet from the start line. I have no clue why he thought that was the best spot to be, but I am happy I didn’t actually trip into him because that obviously wouldn’t have been a great start to the race.
Since I was with the better runners, I started off pretty fast. At .5 miles, my Nike+ app gave me a pace per mile of 7:15, which I knew was too fast and knew I needed to slow down a bit to a pace I could stay at for over 9 miles.
For about the first 4 miles, I settled in at a 7:45/mile pace. This felt fairly comfortable at first, but then I started getting very tired and my legs were feeling very sore. I run in St. Louis all the time, so I know that it is hilly, but the rolling hills were really getting to me on this day! I dealt with it though because I know if I wanted to reach my goals, I couldn’t stop to walk. So I kept going even though I was feeling the burn in my legs!
There were multiple water stations and “sweet” stations along the way. The sweets that they were giving away were marshmallows, tootsie rolls, and Hershey Kisses. While I love all of these, I didn’t take any because I didn’t want to puke. Haha.
Around mile 6 I was getting very tired, but then a man ran by me that caught my attention. He was part of Team RWB (Red, White, and Blue) and was running with a large American flag. Not only was he carrying the flag with him, but he was also running barefoot! Seriously, I got a little choked up seeing him. After that, I told myself to stop feeling sorry for myself for feeling a little sore because this man was obviously dealing with a lot more obstacles than I was and if he could push through it so could I! I was so happy he passed me, because he was really the motivation I needed to keep going and finish the race strong.
The last 3 miles were rough but I got through them and crossed the finish line with a time of 1:16:11 (8:11/mile pace). At first I thought my ultimate goal was 1:15, so I was a bit disappointed. When I got home, I looked at my race preview and realized that my goal was actually 1:17, so I had not only achieved it but really crushed it! I was very happy! I was also happy when I looked up my results and saw that I placed in the top 20 for my division (19 out of 303), 128th out of 2,346 for all women, and then 315th out of 3,275 overall. Also, I looked at my results last year for the 5K and I had a 9:11/pace. So my pace per mile was exactly 1 minute better, and I ran over 6 more miles this year. Very happy to see all my hard work in training runs is paying off!!
I love the Hot Chocolate race series and will definitely keep doing this race year after year. The swag is some of the best, 15K finishers get an awesome medal, and I love the chocolate treats after. I would definitely recommend the race to everyone looking for a fun and challenging race!