I can’t tell you exactly why having paint thrown on you while running a 5k is amazingly fun, but I assure you, it is. Without question, Sunday’s Color Run in Philly was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had doing a race.
I read about the Color Run last year, and thought it sounded awesome and was jealous there wasn’t one closer. So when I read that the running tour was expanding for a nation-wide tour, I waited anxiously for the Philly date to be announced. Alas, only a New York date was listed. But I convinced Jen to sign up with me. Then to our delight, a Philly date was added! We registered and then I didn’t give the race much thought again until the week of the event.
On Friday, I went to pick up my race packet in front of the art museum and was met by a line that took me a half-hour to get through. Broad Street anyone? I was already annoyed. It wasn’t that it was unorganized or understaffed. It just seemed like everyone was super anxious to pick up their materials early. And I heard there were 20,000+ runners, making the Philly event one of the biggest for the Color Run. I was also annoyed while looking around and realizing that 75% of the people in line clearly weren’t runners. I couldn’t help but think how much of a mess race day would be and how slow the course would be with so many walkers.
After only a few hours of sleep due to attending a birthday party in NJ Saturday night, I grumpily put on a white t-shirt and headband and headed to the course with Jen. The race was supposed to start in waves from 7-8am. Basically you just lined up when you got there. The race wasn’t timed, and I didn’t even bother to use my phone or watch to track it. I had to keep telling myself it was only a fun run and to be patient, which is just a weird mindset to get yourself into since I’ve never done a race like that before. We came up on a massive crowd of mostly young women clad in white t-shirts, tutus, and sunglasses around 7:15 and got in line to start. I couldn’t believe how many people were in the sea of white. Maybe the biggest Philly race next to the Half/Full Marathons? We waited maybe 10 minutes while shuffling forward to the starting line. A very energetic emcee was counting down the waves and playing all the crappy pop music I love so much. I started to lighten up and was ready for a fun time.
Our wave started and we took off amongst a sea of white shirts. As predicted, the race was slow going. Maybe 2/3 of the participants were walking, which made it hard to jog around them. There were many stops and starts and breaks for pictures. It was difficult not to care about the hold-ups, but after the first color stop, Jen and I were among the many taking breaks for pictures and walking through stops to get optimal coloring.
Now on to the color! I wasn’t quite sure what I pictured when I thought of how the color would be dispersed, but it involved big cannons of some sort, spraying runners with color as they raced by. It was not, however, volunteers with ketchup bottles filled with colored cornstarch. However, their system worked pretty well. The first stop was red, and we made the mistake of jogging through the middle, which did not yield much color. By the second and third stops, we figured out there were many more volunteers along the side of the road, and we twirled and ducked through the raining color in order to coat ourselves. Coming into each color stop, the crowd slowed and a cloud of powdered color was visible from a pretty good distance. We even saw color floating up over the Schuylkill Expressway at the third stop. It was a pretty crazy thing to see. Within the stop itself, all you could see was color everywhere. I closed my eyes each time and tried to keep my mouth closed. If you happened to get any in your mouth, it tasted like chalk and was quite gross. We got a good dose of color, but got even more at the after-party… more on that later.
The course was actually pretty challenging for such a non-athletic crowd. It started at the Art Museum and went up Lemon Hill, past the zoo and back down River Drive, ending at the Art Museum again. It was a beautiful course, portions of which were also part of the marathon course. There was actually a water stop after the first mile, which is a bit of overkill for a 5k. But I guess they have to consider most of these participants aren’t runners. And with the colored chalk floating around, I can see how people might need something to quench their thirst.
The run itself was a great time. Jen and I had big grins on our faces as we crossed the finish line. I kind of wished it wasn’t so short. Then we headed over to the color throw area. This was where the real color craziness took place. Along with the t-shirt and headband you received with packet pick-up, you were also given a foil packet of a random color. The idea is to keep the color with you and then every 15 minutes in the color throw area, runners gather and throw their packets into the air, spraying colors everywhere and coating everyone in the crowd. It was a sight to see from afar, and even more fun to be in. The music was loud and everyone was dancing. People were climbing on each other’s shoulders to take pictures of it all. Jen and I were severely lacking in green coloring, so we scouted out someone with a green packet and stood near her. The DJ counted down and everyone threw their powder in the air. We went from slightly colored to covered in paint from head to toe in no time. It was hard to breathe in all the color, but totally worth it. We were about to leave to take some more pics at the Art Museum when we heard Call Me Maybe start playing. Of course we ran back over to the dance area and proceeded to scream the words and jump around for the duration of the song.
Clean-up was both better and worse than I expected. I threw my clothes, including sneakers, into the wash. The black shorts I wore still look black. The sneakers came clean. And my headband and t-shirt now look tie-dyed, which is pretty cool. Scrubbing myself in the shower with a rag and half a bottle of soap multiple times got almost everything off my skin. However, there were some stubborn spots. I still have a pink spot on my scalp days later, and a very faint pink streak where my hair is blondest. It also seemed to soak into the pores of my face. After much scrubbing, I still had a line of deep purple under my eyes and on the bridge of my nose. It looked like someone beat me up. So I continued to scrub until I actually rubbed the skin off and had scabs the next day. I’m slowly healing, and I had honestly expected worse.
All in all it was an amazing event. I am so glad I did it, and so lucky to have an awesome runner friend to do events like this with. I wouldn’t want to be in charge of cleaning up the asphalt after this crazy day, but I hope the event planners make a return trip next year. I’ll be first in line to register, and I’ll definitely wear a costume. I’m thinking shower cap and white bathrobe for next year.