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Color Run : The Happiest 5k on Earth

Color Run title


In the Spring, when my daughter asked (in her sweetest voice with pleading eyes) if I’d do the Color Run 5k with her, I think I nearly fell over. My first thought was YES! Yes, I will go out and do a spiffy, athletic run with my baby girl! Hugs all around!  My second thought was, holy moly, what in the world am I thinking? I’m a middle-aged, overweight, out of shape mom, who hasn’t trained for anything in years.  Determined that we do our inaugural 5k runs together, I registered three of us for the Color Run in Atlanta.  (DH was recruited to the team by default.) As the Color Run was fairly new at that time, we had no idea what to expect, but it sounded like fun!  For the next two or three months, I started walking and preparing my soul, and my feet, for an experience I’ll never forget.

The Color Run was founded in an effort to encourage professionals and novices to run together for fun. Its first event took place in January 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona with 6,000 participants. It’s an untimed event that emphasizes fun over competition. In fact, according to The Color Run’s 2012 figures, over 60% of the participants were running a five-kilometer race for the first time. Runners begin dressed in clean white t-shirts, and as they make their way through the course, they pass through six different color stations—blue, green, pink, purple, yellow, and orange—where volunteers throw colored powder onto them. Once you cross the finish line (this could mean dance across, roll across, hop across, shuffle across, cha cha across, moonwalk across, bunny hop across, whatever you like) there will be a giant gathering of runners for an amazing celebration of completion in the form of a mind boggling rainbow cloud of colored powder and cheers.

I couldn’t have been more proud of our little team, even though we didn’t finish at the beginning of pack, we finished.  And I’d love to share some lessons learned and tips with you as the Color Run is surely happening near you – over 100 U.S. cities in 2013. Check it out here and learn why it’s been dubbed “the happiest 5k on earth!”

color run collage

First and foremost, you don’t have to be a runner to do the Color Run. It’s not timed, families and children are welcome, and there’s a designated walking lane. We walked the whole course and found that the number of participants create an unavoidable stop-and-go situation leading up to the color stations, even walking through some.  We never got trampled, we didn’t feel rushed, no one made snide remarks or even looked sideways at us.  There were families with strollers, toddlers, wheelchairs, wagons, you name it. All sizes, shapes and speeds.  I really feel like the term “run” is just a formality.

Register early for the best prices and take advantage of the option to pick up your race packet early.  There were long lines on race day, but the staff and volunteers moved everyone through at a pretty good pace. Nevertheless, there were long lines.

Arrive early. Thousands of people will be joining you. Don’t let the walk from your parking spot wear you out before the run even starts.  Conversely, it could be a long walk back after its over.

Next, come ready to have a good time!  This is definitely a tutu crowd.  Costumes and crazy socks are the way to go.  Our race was the day before Easter, so you can imagine how many bunny ears and tails we saw.  Bring balloons, funny sunglasses, feather boas, anything goes.  One guy carried an American flag through the course and, respectfully, no one pelted it with color.

IMG_0756Cover your eyes and face or risk choking on the colored powder and rainbow boogers.  Sunglasses and a bandana over your mouth and nose worked beautifully.

Ditto to protecting cell phones and cameras.  Lot of people carried them in ziploc bags or wrapped in plastic wrap. Still took fine pictures.

Finally, bring towels, a sheet or garbage bags to cover car seats for the ride home.

Courtesy of the folks at the Color Run, if you want the color to wash out of your hair and skin ASAP, here are a few tips…

Before the Color Run

• Oiling your hair well on race morning will make it easier to wash out the color later. Coconut oil or olive oil work best. A good leave in conditioner will do the trick as well. This is a particularly useful tip for runners with light colored or highlighted hair.

• Wear a good sunscreen and lip balm.

• Though the color will eventually wash out of just about everything, you may not want to bring your fancy stroller… Or your $500 running shoes… Or your white suede pants.

After the Color Run

• Dust off as much dry powder as you can before you apply any water. Take advantage of our “Color Blower Station” at the post race festival for some help. Most of the color will evaporate like magical fairy dust.

• Cleaning your hair: Dust any loose powder out of your hair. Rinse out the oil/conditioner you wisely applied before the race with cold water. Most of the color should come right out. Now wash your hair as you normally would. It is not uncommon for hints of some of the color, pink and purple particularly, to stick around for a few washes. Wear it like a badge of honor. Or wear a hat.

• The color is probably not coming all the way out of your white cotton shirt. You should be proud of that. But just about everything else should clean up fine. Remove all excess powder before adding water. Wash your Color Run gear separately, with COLD water. Oxiclean, or a similar product, will work wonders on your running equipment. Every so often you may look down a see a little trace of pink on your shoe and smile. It’ll remind you that we love you. Eventually, it’ll all be gone.

So we finished the 5k and I couldn’t believe how overwhelmingly proud I was of all of us!  It was an exciting, fun, beautiful and joyous day. If the Color Run comes to your city, or anywhere near it, don’t walk…run…no, walking is fine.  Just get your family registered and get ready for an amazing experience.

Been to the Color Run?  Have any great tips for first timers?