Please note that I received a complimentary entry into the AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K (the 5K distance), as well as a small stipend, for my Instagram posts about the race. However, this AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K recap is my honest opinion, not paid for, and not part of the agreement with the sponsor.
I certainly enjoyed running the AllState Hot Chocolate 5K last year, so I wasn’t opposed to running it again this year. It’s an easy out-and-back course with two water/Nuun stops on the 5K course, and it draws a pretty decent crowd. There’s a 15K option as well, with a similar out-and-back course in downtown Houston. Plus, it’s a small race but with big-race amenities like gear check and a merchandise tent the morning of the race. When I was contacted by the race organizers to run it as a sponsored race, I checked my schedule, then happily signed up.
The AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Expo
First up was the AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Expo. It’s held at Minute Maid Park (where the Houston Astros play, for those of you not from Houston and/or not baseball fans). This year, going to Minute Maid Park in any capacity was salt in the wound after the Astros cheating scandal; I’m a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan. I grew up rooting for my boys in blue. But I digress.
It’s actually pretty fun to head over to Minute Maid Park on a Friday afternoon. This time, I got to see a little baseball as I headed to pick up my packet. If you’re at all into that kind of thing (like I am), you get to see a part of Minute Maid Park that you might not normally get to see, since pickup is on the club level. I arrived without incident, found parking on the street, and picked up my packet. I also ate some of the chocolate treats they were handing out to whet our appetites for the next morning and checked out a couple of the vendors.
A Sweet Race with a Sweet Ending
On Saturday, I headed into downtown Houston to Sam Houston Park for the race. Since the 5K started at 7:15 am, it was still dark, which was fine. I parked in a nearby garage, then followed the other runner-looking people over to Sam Houston Park for the AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K start. I didn’t see a lot of people with the 15K bib right off the bat; the 15K starts half an hour later, so maybe they slept in.
That morning, I did all my usual pre-race things, except for running a mile to warm up. It was still dark, and I don’t know downtown well enough to do that. So I just jogged around for a few minutes, then did some dynamic stretches and lined up at the start.
One thing that’s really great about how the race is organized? They do corrals. Like I said, it’s a small race with big-race amenities, so they seeded me in the A Corral. The AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K totally welcomes walkers; I saw plenty of them lining up and enjoying the race as well. That’s another cool thing; it’s inclusive, and it surrounds you with people who have similar goals.
So, the race. It was out and back, and I knew I wasn’t going to get a PR right out of the gate. I was less than two weeks out from running a PR at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, and I knew I was still recovering. My main focus was running a halfway decent time and enjoying myself.
And I did. This time, I didn’t lose my hair tie and have hair blowing all over my face. However, in true Christine fashion, I did manage to drop the cup of water I had reached out for at one of the water stops before I could sip. And as with all 5Ks, before I even knew it, I was sprinting across the finish line: 25 minutes, even. Like I said, I knew I wouldn’t PR, but I wasn’t far off.
The best part of the AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K, however, is after the race. The organizers put on a fantastic after party, and I’m not going to lie: the biggest draw for me is the gigantic cup full of goodies:
Here’s what you CAN see in that cup: dipping chocolate, a banana, and a cup of hot chocolate. What you can’t see is the Rice Krispie treat, the pirouette cookie, the Honey Stinger waffle, and the marshmallow. (No, I didn’t eat all of it! I brought the cookie, waffle, and Rice Krispie treat home with me.) It’s a really fun snack to have after a run!
The post-race party is also pretty fun. They do an awards ceremony for the top three finishers. If you age group place, you’ll receive your medal in about six weeks (I came in second in my age group!) And there’s a DJ, and you can wander around Sam Houston Park, look at the historic buildings, and just relax.
Oh, and did I mention the swag? Instead of a t-shirt that you’ll never wear, you get a soft hooded jacket. This year’s was teal with tangerine trim for the ladies. Mine was true to size and so comfortable that I didn’t want to take it off. And everyone gets a medal, too.
Do I recommend this race? Absolutely: good location, good course, amazing swag and after party. You really can’t beat it. If you’re looking for a good first 5K to do, I highly recommend the AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K series. (yes, the even better news is that they hold this race all over the country!)