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Commentary: Color Run 5k pricey, but worth the mess

Sarah Pfledderer / arts editor

More than 24 hours later, I may or may not still be finding color in unexpected places.

Saturday morning more than 10,000 people flooded the streets of the Arena District, decked out in white and ready to get messy for the Color Run, a 5-kilometer (3.1 mile) race coined “the happiest 5k on the planet.”

The point of the race wasn’t to get a fast time or a new personal best, the goal among many in the crowd was to get as colorful as possible. Along the race course were different color stations where volunteers bombarded racers with dyed corn starch, staining their clothes, hair and skin. We crossed the finish line looking like we had gotten in a fight with a rainbow, and lost.

At 9 a.m. runners were released into the streets of Columbus in waves of 1,000, passing through four color stations along the route. First blue, then pink, orange and yellow shortly before the finish line. Approaching the color stations, clouds of hue could be seen on the horizon waiting to greet us as we passed through.

At the finish line, we ran straight into the “finish line festival” where crowds of freshly-colored runners stood taking pictures, recounting the race, and waiting for the next “color throw.”

When runners picked up their race materials–race numbers, T-shirts and sweat bands, everyone was also given a small packet of color, and was told to hold onto it until the end of the race. Now at the end of the race, open packets in hand, runners waited eagerly during the festival countdown when everyone threw their powdered dye into the air at the same time, showering the crowd.

The visual of hundreds of tiny puffs of color mixing at the same time was truly amazing.

I had a lot of fun at the Color Run, and I have the dyed clothes to prove it. When I registered in April, the $35 registration fee seemed a little pricey, and it still does. That’s about $10-15 more than the average 5k race, but the Color Run offers an experience you can’t get from another race.

This wasn’t a race for time. Actually, there were so many people that we had to walk through every congested color station. There was no chance of finishing with a good time, so why even keep track?

If you wanted to run a serious 5k, this isn’t the race you were looking for. If you just wanted to have fun on a Saturday morning with some friends and enjoy the nice weather, this was as good as it gets in Columbus.

Aside from the crowding and the overwhelming number of people just walking the whole race, I felt like the distribution of color stations was off balance. In the first mile and a half there were three stations, in the second half of the race there was only one. The race course was changed a few days before the race to accommodate “last-minute requests of the city” according to a pre-race email, which changed the locations of the color stations and affected the rhythm of the event.

The original color locations look a lot more evenly spaced, but there’s only so much that can be done trying to reorganize an event of this scale on such short notice.

If the Color Run returns to Columbus next year, I probably won’t register again. It was a lot of fun, but now I’ve done it, and unless it’s a radically different event, I think once will be enough. I will however, consider signing up as a volunteer because if there’s anything more fun than being covered in color, it would be throwing it on everyone else.


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