This recap was submitted by Run Oregon reader Mary Sweigert. Feel free to Submit a Guest Post in the “Contact Us” tab if you are wanting to recap your experiences as well!
We keep the cold at bay bouncing around in line for the long bank of honeybuckets. It’s comforting that almost every race seems to start the same way. Keep warm, stay ready, and find that hungry place that needs to unleash all this energy ricocheting around in limbs. The RAM Racing Series Hot Chocolate 5/15K is probably – definitely –my favorite race to date. Despite the cold, and maybe longer than normal starting time wait, this race earned major points by playing hard to its strengths.
Getting to Know You
From first experience with the race via the site (which is refreshingly user-friendly) I was pumped up. It was easy to register, and I got a confirmation email moments later that set a tone for a friendly welcome that carried through the entire event.
At packet pickup the preceding day, welcome wagons were in full effect and they featured my new favorite thing of all racing time: race shirt size exchanges. I don’t know why all races don’t let you do this. We picked up our packets with race numbers, half zips, and swag, all in a nice little track bag, and we immediately tried on the great quality half-zip for size. An exchange right next to packet pick up meant that if your size wasn’t quite right, you could try on others and exchange yours for one that fit better (totally worth it, since this is easily and already my favorite article of racing apparel). This tiny detail is nothing short of genius. It’s such a simple thing, but it makes the race experience feel good before it even starts, knowing that you didn’t collect another item of athletic wear that fits strangely or doesn’t work quite right. Don’t we all have loads of those gathering dust? Hat tips to you, Hot Chocolate, because what started out as a mild attraction to this race, was now a full blown crush.
Come race morning in early March Seattle, we are none of us surprised to find it raining. It is also bone-chilling, cannot-be-wearing-enough-layers cold. This was maybe the only –and notably tiny – beef I had with the race. There was, as always, a lot of waiting around, the only downside being that it was in aforementioned, spirit-bruising cold. Uncharacteristically, the 5k racers started first, while the 15k racers waited around in the timing corrals for it to finally be our turn. As the waves of runners rolled through, our frozen limbs staggered ever closer to the start line.
Seeing already through runners enjoying their finish line hot cocoa, I couldn’t help but wish for some pre-race cocoa, but with our gate finally up, minds immediately shift to the running at hand. We start off through Seattle Center, winding our way down the steep streets, mindful that everything we descend we will surely have to climb again on return. It doesn’t matter, the runners are pumped up, the race is full but not crowded, and its very soon a pleasant course. After a downtown out-and-back, we came around a bend to my favorite portion of the race: The Battery Street Tunnel, an almost mile long stretch of underground road, echoing with the sounds of running feet and cheerful chatter at the welcome break from the rain.
Emerging from the tunnel back into daylight and drizzle, we make our way over the Aurora bridge, up the long steep grade and off onto the other side, in order to double back and head back toward Seattle Center. Aid stations offer us chocolates, gatorade, and water, and throughout the course, the race day support is friendly, encouraging, and a major factor adding to great spirits despite dismal weather.
Space Needle in sight, the last uphill miles toward the finish are fast and furious. To my surprise and delight, we receive post-race snacks in the form of both hot chocolate for drinking and chocolate fondue for dipping complete with marshmallows, graham crackers, and other snacks for dunking. Nothing tastes quite as good as a rice krispie treat and a banana dunked in warm chocolate when you’re soaked to the bone and hill-tired to the core.
Though this was by far not my best race in terms of time – I’m still blaming those hills – it was far and away the most fun I’ve had racing. It was excellently put together, well organized, welcoming, and seemed to have a very intuitive way of celebrating runners, their supporters, and the race, all at the same time. From event stations helping runners reunite with their parties, to the easy sign up and support, there was a distinct sense that this race, and the folks behind it, had your back.
Though my legs are still wrecked from steep slopes, I look forward to running this again next year, and finding other RAM Racing events in the mean time. It’s a race relationship founded on attention to runners and their needs, friendliness, and of course, chocolate covered bananas. Does it get any better?