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The Happiest 5K Ever

by Elizabeth Miller

Ah, Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer.

Since it’s notoriously one of the most crowded weekends of the year on Miami Beach, I decided to escape to Denver to visit one of my best friends, Tiffany, who recently got engaged to her boyfriend. While we were researching fun things to do, she e-mailed me about something called The Color Run. I’d never heard of it. Of course, I Googled it and knew immediately this was right up my alley.

We signed up, along with one of my college roommates and my other friend from New York who both also happen to living in Denver.

So what is The Color Run, and why you should you care?

It’s billed as “the happiest 5k ever.” $40 buys you registration, but that’s only if you manage to snag one of the spots in time. They sell out quickly.

Once you’ve procured a spot, you’re given a white t-shirt, wristband, sweatband, and a bright bag of color (mine was orange). Oh, and a Color Run temporary tattoo. The only rule is that you have to wear a white t-shirt; besides that, anything goes.

At every kilometer there’s a color station – yellow, blue, green, pink. Volunteers stand with bottles, and as you pass each station, they gladly douse you with the designated color. It’s kind of like running through a giant cloud of color. While technically there are high and low color zones based on where on the path you’re running, it’s really just a giant free for all.

At the end of the 3.1 miles everyone gathers in a field, and if you’ve managed to hang on to your bag of color (we used ours immediately – before we started the race), you get to use it on each other. You know, in case there wasn’t enough color along the route.

We saw it all, a girl running in her white wedding dress, a white dog, men in white tutus. Over 10,000 people ran the Denver one.

It’s probably coming to a city near you this year. You can check the list of upcoming Color Run locations to see if one of the 30 races is going to be near you. It’s sort of like an adult summer camp activity* and at least you get your exercise for the day out of the way.

If you plan on running the race, a few things to note: first, sunglasses are highly recommended. You don’t want the powder (which is actually just colored cornstarch) getting in your eyes, especially if you wear contacts. Second, you should definitely plan on bringing towels to cover your car seats on your way home, unless you want tie-die looking car seats for several weeks. Third, plan on showering immediately. Although we had the most delicious dim-sum lunch at a place afterwards, we got really odd looks from some of the people in the restaurant, and I’m fairly certain I dyed their tablecloth a mixture of purple and pink. Technically you can eat the color, (they say it’s “magical color dust”) but I wouldn’t suggest it. It tastes really chalky. And lastly, don’t wear one single item of clothing you have an attachment to. Even after a few washes, my socks will never be the same.

So would I do it again? Yes. In fact, I’m currently signed up for both Miami and Washington D.C.’s Color Run, except I just realized they’re both on the same day, October 21st.

Three showers later I’m not entirely sure that the purple is out of my scalp, and I know it’s not out from beneath my fingernails. I figure the pigment will fade eventually, but memories won’t.

Deciding whether you’re inspired enough to try it? Check out videos and photos of The Color Run online.

Photo credits: Gavin Lee (Why didn’t you run?)

*(Ed. note: I blame the Chernov family and their wonderful Camp Birch Trail for introducing my daughter to such foolishness. There she played something called “Biffer,” which is obviously the idea on which The Color Run is based.
Maybe Elizabeth will write about that time in her life one day.)