The Fun Run
Posted On Jul 22, 2014
Part road race, part Jackson Pollock painting, The Color Run is fast becoming the most vibrant 5K on the planet.
BY Laurel House PHOTOGRAPH by Kevin Zacher
hen you think about taking a run—or getting in shape, in general—does it feel like a chore rather than a chance to let your hair down and feel great? If so, a multi-city phenomenon called the Color Run is the road race for you. Less about exertion and more about endorphins, the Color Run encourages participants to pull on their tutus, sport wacky hairdos, don some drag, and simply express their individuality in wild ways. The kicker? Along the way, you’re doused with rainbow colored powder at each kilometer marker (as if you’re in the midst of a powdered sugar food fight). While serious athletes participate, this 5K attracts a slew of beginners, many of whom have never raced before. One such beginner was me.
A bit of background: Fourteen million people in the US ran in road races last year—up 170% from 1991. Women now count for 55% of these runners, up from just 25% in 1990. For many of these women, these runs are not about competition. Rather, they’re running 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons to stay fit, trim fat, train toward a goal, raise money for charity, enjoy healthy time with girlfriends, push themselves out of their comfort zones, cross their first finish line, and simply have fun.
Not only are 5Ks a great opportunity for first-timers to get in the game, experienced runners use them to train for longer, more extreme events. Obstacle races such as Tough Mudder, the Spartan Race, Kiss Me Dirty, Pretty Muddy, and Dirty Girl add climbing walls and mud pits to the mix. These have become all the rage in recent years. The Color Run—considered the happiest 5K on the planet—involves no dirt, though its vibe is, in a word, vibrant.
When I first came across a photo of a post-Color Run face, splattered with multicolor paint, my lifelong apprehension towards road races began to dissipate. I found myself anxiously researching where and when the next event was. As luck would have it, there was a Color Run in two weeks, right by me in Downtown Los Angeles. Done!
I didn’t want to run alone so I did what the vast majority of Color Runners do: I registered as a group, came up with our name, “QuickieChick,” and went right to Facebook. I called out to any local friends who might want to run with me. Within minutes I had five responses of, “I’m in!” Something to note: In addition to my lifelong aversion to racing, I’ve never cared for running in general.
Whenever I find myself on a treadmill, tracking how much time or distance remains, I begin to feel like I can’t breathe. Every minute feels like ten. Beyond physical pain, it causes emotional discomfort. However, my commitment to the Color Run necessitated that I start training. To track my progress, I needed a system of measurement— something I could build on. I decided to measure my time in songs. I called my workouts “The One-Song Run.” The only pressure I placed on myself was to run for one song. As it would come to an end, I would see how I felt and decide if I could run for two more. I would add more if I felt I could.
The key was to create a workout mix of music that made me want to move, and stringing songs together with only the shortest length of breaks in between. Anything that momentarily distracted me from the music had the power to derail my hard-fought momentum.
My workout schedule looked like this:
Monday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 1-song
Tuesday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 1-song
Wednesday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 2-songs
Thursday S peed walk 60 minutes, run 3-songs
Friday S peed walk 60 minutes, run 4-songs
Saturday Hike 2 hours, run 5-songs
Monday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 6-songs
Tuesday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 7-songs
Wednesday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 6-songs
Thursday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 5-songs
Friday Speed walk 60 minutes, run 4-songs
The morning of the run, I fueled up on an egg white and chicken scramble; a Ritual Wellness pressed juice made with beets, carrots, pears, celery, and red apples; and lots of green tea with soy milk. I arrived an hour early, dressed in my white T-shirt (which is a race requirement), and joined the enthusiastic masses.
A DJ provided backgroundmusic as all of the runners stretched, posed for pumped-up group photos, and danced around among the hot pink signs emblazoned with statements such as sweat rainbows and i love tutus! Clearly, this was not your grandfather’s road race. To my amazement, a total of 20,000 people showed up, representing all walks of life. The members of our QuickieChick group made our way to the very front of the crowd, just behind the race ribbon. Speakers blared energetic pop music. A group of pompompumping cheerleaders did flips in front of us. The countdown began.
And then, we were off ! While the characters around us were colorful enough as is, we were sprayed with the colored powder (a combination of cornstarch and gentle dye) along the way from the sidelines. Some chose to run in the center or the back, simply getting touched by the color cloud. Others hugged the sidelines and got really doused. We QuickieChicks were all about the color. We danced and spun at each color stop: blue, yellow, purple, pink, and green. We couldn’t help but laugh when we’d notice one another’s teeth that had become momentarily stained by the rainbow swirls. The race wasn’t timed, and there was no pressure to be better than anyone else.
This was just one more wonderful “plus.”More racers chose to walk than run. They simply crossed the finish line at their own paces, wearing big smiles. The bulk of us crowded around the stage where the DJ played, encouraging lingering runners to summon their second winds, cross the finish line, and come join the party. Covered in color, from head to toe, we threw up our hands and danced until streams of bright, multi-hued sweat dripped from the tips of our chins. More than a race, the Color Run was a celebration of friendship and accomplishment. I drove home with a sense of pride that took me aback. Sure, it was just a 5K, or 3.2 miles, yet I proved to myself that some long-lingering fears were unfounded. I’ve scheduled two more 5ks this year, including the Mud Run. Who knew that getting out of my comfort zone could be such a wonderful experience?