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Color Running

Maddie Daly | Monday, October 7, 2013

Bright and early Saturday morning, downtown South Bend exploded into a loud, lively party as thousands gathered for the Color Run, otherwise known as the “happiest 5K on the planet.”  Unlike most 5Ks, this event is anything but a race. Focusing on happiness and health, the Color Run is a laid-back, untimed 5K that includes a colorful surprise – paint is thrown at the participants throughout the race so that by the end, they are literally covered head to toe in color.  The starting line is a mass of white while the finish line is a tie-dyed mob with paint covering everything in sight, making quite the scene for random passersby. In fact, on our drive home, my friends and I were sitting at a stop light when the car next to us rolled down the window and started snapping pictures of us. Hope those don’t end up on Facebook; we looked a bit scary with our purple and blue faces. 

The Color Run began in 2012 and has visited cities all around the world, giving everyone a chance to join in on the fun and happiness. Equipped with a DJ, registration tents, food, water and plenty of merchandise, the Color Run tour is a 5K, rave and festival combined into one.  Each runner receives a registration packet full of temporary tattoos, a white T-shirt, a white sweatband, a bib number and, of course, a bag of paint. Made out of corn starch, the dye is actually a powder but somehow manages to stick to everything it comes in contact with. During the 5K, volunteers toss the powder onto runners as they pass by certain points. After we ran through the first round of color-throwing, we had yellow “paint” on our shirts, in our hair and all over our shoes. By the end, we had it on our eyelids, under our fingernails and in our ears. In fact, you could literally “taste the rainbow,” since after each round of color the only air to breath and taste was colorful powder. I’m still trying to scrub the blue off of my hands and get the pink streaks out of my hair, even after two showers.  

Once again setting it apart from ordinary 5K races, the Color Run is a “for-profit” company.  Unlike the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, the Hunger Walk 5K and the Mara Fox 5K here on campus, the Color Run does not benefit any specific charity but instead functions like a traveling, profiting company. However, the Color Run sometimes does partner with local charities as they move locations. In the case of South Bend, the Color Run teamed up with Make a Difference Michiana, a resource that connects volunteers with non-profits, and Memorial Children’s Hospital to raise awareness about both organizations. The Color Run also donates a portion of its profit to the partner charities after the race and gives runners and volunteers the option to delegate some of the money raised to the partner charities as well. So, although the race is primarily held just to be a part of a trendy new phenomenon and the registration fee (which depends on when you register and if you’re running solo or as part of a team) pays mostly for a morning of fun and a free T-shirt, at least a little of the profit goes back to the South Bend community. 

For a race that has become more and more popular on college campuses, I was surprised at the small student population present. Granted, a percentage of participants were students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, but the majority were families and children. I guess the 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday race registration time was too early for sleep-deprived college students.

Even though I was running on only a few hours of sleep, the race had a unique way of making everyone present happy simply for being alive and together. Between the music, the crowd and the overwhelming amount of paint, everyone was brought together for one big, family-friendly party. The conclusion of the race included dance-offs, more color, free stuff and a peppy DJ, giving everyone a huge energy boost, no matter how tired or worn out they were from the run.  Everyone looked ridiculous with color covering their faces and clothes, but that’s what made it so fun. With the competition aspect removed, the Color Run serves as a feel-good, stress-free event for people of all ages.  

Contact Maddie Daly at mdaly6@nd.edu