I first heard about The Color Run when nifty Natalie took part in one in Sydney, then a colleague of mine in Los Angeles did one shortly after. From the second I saw their incredible paint-smeared smiley faces, I have been stalking The Color Run locations tab to see if/when they would grace the UK shores and eventually my incessant f5 f5 f5 paid off! The event is predominantly a USA and Aussie affair; they happen on a weekly basis touring around the countries, so it’s great news that they have trialled the “Happiest 5k” here, and hopefully given the popularity they will be here to stay.
The premise of The Color Run is that you run 5k, raise money for Stand Up To Cancer AND get messy in the process. The event is £20 to enter, but for that you get sent your white Color Run tee, snazzy white headband and a temporary tattoo; I don’t think I’ve put a temporary tattoo on since I was a kid but it appears you never forget this vital life skill. The London event took place at Wembley Park. I’d gotten all overexcited thinking that we were going to be doing painty victory laps inside the stadium… but no, the 5k run took us on the rather less glamorous route of the roads around the outside of the stadium, including a street we fondly termed meat alley, as it was an industrial estate full of meat factories that smelt like sweaty mince. At least it made us run faster to get away from it!
I have to say, the start of the race wasn’t very well organised. Alongside 15,000 other runners, we were all funnelled into a car park where we waited for an hour without any clear instructions on what was happening. The run was meant to start at 2.30pm and by 3pm we were still stood in a car park. This might have been fine, but in 32 degree heat with no breeze and no shade, we were basically boiling alive and slowly melting in Alex Mac style puddles. There was no water and bit by bit everyone packed more into each other and soon people were fainting left, right and centre! I felt so sorry for those people as I doubt they even got to take part in the run, and it really could have been avoided. The organisers were really lucky that there wasn’t more crushing happening too, as people got more impatient and stroppy. Anyway eventually we were released from the car park of doom, and let out onto the tracks!
I wasn’t sure how the run itself would work, but basically you set off shiny, crisp and bright white but every kilometre there is a “colour zone”. The first one we encountered was pink, so you run through a pink archway and then into pink powder paint chaos! There are hords of run-volunteers chucking sacks of powder paint over everyone as they pass, and you can also grab handfuls of paint yourself and throw it over your running mates (and strangers). 2k was yellow, 3k was blue, 4k was orange… you can imagine by this point everyone was getting pretty technicolour! The run itself was really good fun, you barely notice that you are doing 5k as you are stopping and starting so much to have paint fights and the prospect of entering another colour zone keeps you trotting on. Unfortunately the Color Run people did let themselves down again though, as it was SO excruciatingly hot and after promising on the pre-event information that there would be water at every k, there was actually only one water stop and it wasn’t until well after halfway around the circuit. By that point I literally thought it was a mirage, I was so dehydrated. Even then, you just got offered a tiny shot-glass of water… and then sent on your way. Considering the heat and the excursion, this wasn’t ok. I can’t say it’s like this across the board, but if you take part I’d definitely not trust the website and pack a good few bottles of water for the day.
After the run was when the fun really began! At the finish line we ironically got bombarded with more liquid than we could possibly consume! Free coconut water and bottle after bottle of water, there was then a huge PAINT PARTY! Loud music, dancing, and packet after packet of powder paint. Every now and then we would be prompted to create a “rainbow” where everyone would simultaneously throw their paint in the air and at each other. I can’t stress just how much fun chucking paint about is. When else would you get to make as much mess as possible and have no consequences? In your wildest dreams that’s where!
I had such a wonderful day, everything about it felt like we were on holiday. The atmosphere was electric and everyone was just beaming from ear to ear. It was brilliant to share it with my two favourite guys, but we were slightly bereft without our fourth team member (our team name was Team Zissou, natch!) Kate who was meant to be running with us but got stricken with some last minute health woes and had to instead spend the day sat in bed. She still wore her headband though.
The highlight of the day was getting “cleaned off” by a Color Run volunteer who basically had a massive leaf blower and just hoovered the majority of the paint off! A pretty surreal experience. Getting home after the event also interesting. As we got further and further from Wembley Park we got more and more inquisitive looks, and people marching up to ask us what we were doing and why we were covered in paint. We did look an absolute state, but we were on a single-minded mission to finish the 5k where surely ALL runs should…. at Dirty Burger adding mustard stains to the paint and slurping on a milkshake!
I would recommend The Color Run to anyone! It was beyond fun, and I would do in a heartbeat. When we were dancing to Icona Pop and chucking paint and smiling… I said “can life just go on like this forever please” and I really meant it. Also you don’t need to be an athlete, there were more people power walking around than running. There are three more Color Runs in the UK this year: Manchester this Saturday, Belfast on the 24th August and Brighton on the 14th September. Sign up here!
>> Big THANK YOU to Craig for loaning me some of his fantastic paparazzi pics from the day. I was too scared that my deaths-door iPhone would give up the ghost if it went on The Color Run too!