One would think that this month’s hot cocoa binge would’ve put an end to my chocolate dreams. I mean, I kid you not, I’ve pretty much ended each of the past 30 days chugging a mug with a spoonful of Cool-Whip on top. 🙈 But considering the Hot Chocolate 15k in Atlanta has been on my radar for several years now and I’ve never made the 5-hour trek to run this race before, I decided 2017 is the year that I pack up the car, lace up my kicks, and celebrate at the finish-line with one final hot chocolate to the face.
But I gotta be honest with you: come Sunday morning, I wasn’t exactly ready to compete for a gold medal in the race that kicked off in the renowned Centennial Olympic Park. See, since Atlanta was forecasted to become the underwater city of Atlantis over the weekend, I kinda went into this 15k thinking that the torrential rainfall was going to keep it from happening at all. So that’s why when I stepped up to the starting line and saw an unexpected parting in the clouds, I had to quickly swap that confused (and slightly-disappointed 😉 ) look on my face for a more focused, PR-hungry one.
As I was standing in my starting-line corral, waiting on the final countdown, I briefly looked up from my newly downloaded Bruno Mars playlist, to really digest how many fellow runners were huddled beside me. Now that I’m thinking a bit more clearly, let’s do the math: there were a total of 14 corrals, with several hundred people packed into each one, making this race a total of…. *drumroll please*… 11,982 chocolate-hungry athletes!! 😱 AKA, just enough people for me to feel like I was racing for a hot cocoa ration if several thousand of these runners decide to kick it into high gear before me. So needless to say, the stakes were high and it was uber-important that I race my lil heart out if I wanted a mug full of chocolately goodness at the end of this race.
And that is exactly what I did. I was a horse out of the gates for the first three miles, clocking a 7:30-average pace. My legs were strong, my ambition was stronger, and I felt like rockstar. 🌠 But then it was around mile 3.5 when I discovered that Atlanta might just be the hilliest city in the Southeast. That’s right, forget the Appalachian Mountains, Atlanta is much more deadly. And who would’ve guessed, right!? I mean, I always wrote Georgia off as being sweet as a peach, but it was quickly becoming clear that this city wanted me dead.
For the next 5 miles, after every corner we turned, we faced another evil-grinning hill. My booty was burning, my fire was extinguishing, and the whole time I was was scratching my head at how it was physically possible for us to keep going up, with no downhill in sight. 🤔
But finally after Atlanta had its fair share of showing us who’s boss, we reached the most triumphant downhill I have ever experienced. We trotted down that glorious road for a good half-mile and I’m pretty sure all of us had the exact same look of relief on our faces. (You know, that look when you finally find an affordable solution to your hair loss problems… ⬇️️ 😂 )
The rest of the race pretty much followed this same rhythm of up-up-up-down (or at least that’s what I recall, because I’m 96% sure I blacked out at one point.) Then at mile 8, I enjoyed a brief out-of-body experience, when my mind fixated on Mr. Cutie’s glutes in front of me, and my body went into autopilot, letting me enjoy the view. This five-minute brain break was much appreciated, but then I remembered that this was a competition, and hunk or not, there might not be enough chocolate fondue for the both of us. Sorry cutie pie, but that finisher’s mug had my name all over it. So I fed him my dust. 😉
When I heard the cheers grow louder, and the faint rumble of that all-too-familiar Kidz Bop-worthy finish-line playlist, I picked up my pace and lengthened my stride. I rounded what I believed was the final corner, and sure enough, I found one last climb waiting for me. But of course, this was not just any hill. This was the hill that ate all of the other hills when we weren’t looking. And it was pure evil.
I huffed, I puffed, I limped, and I’m pretty sure I cried, but I did it. I made it up that beast and I cherished every cheer that came my way at the top. The finish line was waiting only a few yards beyond that point, so I didn’t get to squeeze in my signature sprint, but truly at that point, record time or not, there was only one thing left on my mind….
Meet the worthy grand prize that was waiting for me at the finish line. She was as savory as she looks, and by far the most rewarding race medal I have ever received. Sure, I might have spent the rest of my Sunday in a chocolate coma, but I was finally able to say that I won my prize and ate it too. 🍫
1:14:15 finish time
7:58 average pace
15th place F25-29 out of 338
89th place female out of 3,196
237th place overall out of 4,390