Steve Ginsburg of Deerfield never realized what an impact hot chocolate could have -- for him and for tens of thousands of runners nationwide.
Ginsburg, who owns and operates a race production company called RAM Racing in Buffalo Grove, said he used his favorite drink to christen one of the nation's largest races, which started in Chicago and is expected to attract up to 50,000 runners in November.
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"Every day I would drink hot chocolate, sometimes twice a day," said Ginsburg, 50. "I didn't realize my favorite drink would turn into a business one day."
Ginsburg was born and raised in Chicago until his family moved to Deerfield. His mother raised the family and worked in his father's medical office. His father, a doctor and now 72, continues to be in good shape and remains an inspiration, he said. That healthy outlook and condition led to Ginsberg's career change.
A certified public accountant, Ginsburg had an established career in the investment banking industry. But with an excessive amount of worldwide travel, which took him to lunch meetings in Australia or short stints in Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and elsewhere, he eventually tired of the job.
He decided to leave behind the banking career and focused on his love of running and sports. He is married and has three children, and he enjoys running, skiing, biking and golfing. He also started distributing sports related items, and buying and selling equipment, which grew into two retail stores. He owns and operates Running Away Multisport stores in Chicago and Deerfield.
The Chicago store got involved with a local Chicago race, the Bucktown 5K, in 2002. It had about 300 participants.
Ginsburg was a casual runner, and knew the importance of having a spot where runners could register and pick up their goody bags and numbered bibs, which they wear during the race.
When the organizer of the race handed over the reins to Ginsburg, he continued to organize it. The next one is Sept. 14. But that race eventually led him to create the Hot Chocolate Race, which has expanded each year and offers a 15K route, about 9.3 miles. He also offers some giveaways, he said, and a tent filled with chocolate treats, including hot chocolate, after the runners finish, he said.
Eventually, word-of-mouth increased the number of participants to about 50,000 runners, making it the sixth largest race in the nation. The next race in Chicago is Nov. 9, Ginsburg said.
"That's when I realized we needed a real race staff," he said. He founded RAM Racing, led by an organizer from the Chicago Marathon, he said.
The Hot Chocolate Race has since expanded to 14 cities nationwide and he's now scouting for host cities internationally.
"I feel responsible for all of these people, the runners, the spectators," he said. "So once the race is over, then that's when I can dip my marshmallow into the chocolate fountain."
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