Running for Chocolate

The Hot Chocolate 5k is the biggest race I’ve ever done—by far. I had my doubts about running in November in Chicago. But as Halloween gets packed up and put away and Thanksgiving and Christmas begin to explode everywhere, I thought it would be a fun experience. There is something about winter–and impending winter–that bands Chicagoans together.

“Why not?” I heard Ken say in my head.

Though I didn’t select this race based on the charity component, I was happy to see that recipient of any money raised was the Ronald McDonald House Charities. It made me think of Ken. When he was first diagnosed with cancer in his left foot as a young teen, he had his amputation surgery at the impressive Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His family stayed at Northland House—what would eventually become a Ronald McDonald House.

I threw my fund-raising page onto Facebook to see if I’d get any takers and was so humbled by the generosity of my friends. Thank you to those who were able to donate!

The race itself was a bit more intimidating. I was running late in getting downtown to Grant Park, but once I got on the “L”, I saw tons of people wearing their Hot Chocolate swag, so I knew I’d get there in time. We couldn’t all be running late! More importantly, I could stop paying attention to what stop we were at and just follow Hot Chocolate crowd to where I needed to go.

There were about 23,000 participants in this race. Some running 15k, some running 5k and some walking it. As such, we were assigned “corrals” that were released in waves to minimize congestion on the run. I stood in my corral for half an hour before we were released. Like in every one I’ve run, it’s so congested in the beginning it takes a few minutes to be a run outright, but when that moment happens it’s almost like taking to flight. All of us. Like a flock of awkward birds.

Running freely on the streets of downtown Chicago on a bright morning was exciting. It felt a luxurious. Taking over the streets of a metropolis for the sheer pleasure of a running a race. I hadn’t taken a good look at the route beforehand, so as I ran past my office building I got a kind of view of it I’d never been able to see before. I wasn’t walking out of it to go somewhere else. I was running past it, ignoring it. It was irrelevant and curious. Like as a child seeing a teacher outside of school for the first time and realizing that they exist outside of the only context you know. Odd.

There is something incredibly powerful and meaningful to me about running with others–though I only do it at 5k’s. Full of paradoxes, it’s unity and separateness in commonality of purpose. It’s moving. Literally and figuratively. It’s a metaphor that reminds me I’m a part of something bigger. It’s both importance and insignificance that fills me as I run. I feel the energy of the world shift after a good run. For a split second, everything is possible. Everything makes sense. I feel both powerful and minute in the same moment. And that’s the addiction, I think.

You’ll notice in the photos below that my RunKeeper app had me doing GREAT! I couldn’t believe the pace she said I was keeping. It was BY FAR better than I have ever done. “I got this,” I thought. Then a good mile before the end of the race, she said I was “done”. Clearly there had been a glitch somewhere. My time was okay. I’ve done better. But as I tweeted: It wasn’t my best time. It wasn’t my worst time. But it was definitely a good time.




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