Color Run 2013

Color Run 2013

This is really not going to become a running blog. Still, I am becoming a running man, and there does seem to be some cross pollination between writing and running, so here comes an account of my most recent organized run.

So, I’ve been running around again. That’s now two organized runs in six days. This time I and many members of my family and some friends formed a team for the Kansas City Color Run. This is a nationwide event, and the initial run in Kansas City sold out so quickly this year that they set up a second run for the following day. It’s what I call a novelty run. It’s more about having fun than “serious” running. In this case, as you run the 3.2 miles, there are stations where volunteers throw colored powder at you (or in one case, spray colored water on you). It sounds simple, but I learned that in practice, it’s mostly just insane.

My wife’s niece in St. Louis had done this run before, and her son, Noah, (who starts 5th grade this fall) desperately wanted to run it with her the next chance he could. So she wanted to come here since that was the next Color Run she could find. (Subsequently, she did find another Color Run in St. Louis, so her boy got his chance before he came here to run it again.) They decided to make a long weekend of it, and her husband and younger daughter came along as well. Soon my daughter from New York and my son from Little Rock decided to come home for the event. Then my in-town daughter-in-law signed up. Then my daughter’s in-laws and sister-in-law joined. In all we had twelve people on our team, which we called the Rainbow Riders. Somehow, I was team captain, which involved sending out a few emails and otherwise arranging for arriving people to be picked up and delivered here and there. I was also responsible for picking up everyone’s pre-race packet, which involved an after-work trip to the stadiums, the flashing of ID, the presentation of some signed documents (for those not present for whom I was authorized to pick up), and then a sorting of all of the swag so everyone got everything. As you can see in the photo above, our gear included a truly sweet headband that I may or may not have worn during the run. (I did wear it in the end.) Also, note that my running watch is white. More on that later.

The run was held at the stadium complex on the east side of Kansas City (where the Royals and the Chiefs play), and there were thousands of people already there when we arrived a half hour before start time. We had a mile walk from our cars to the starting line, and we streamed along with hundreds of other people, nearly all dressed in the same shirt and headband (unless they were dressed as butterflies or ballerinas or as a unicorn — as one man was who apparently is part of the Color Run organization and goes town to town with them).

Curiously, I did not have my usual pre-race jitters for this run. I guess that was because this run was not timed and because I would be plodding along with family and friends, all of whom had different abilities and goals for the day. I did, however, drink too much iced tea (unsweetened, of course) that morning and needed to do something about it before I committed my self 3.2 miles of nonstop running. Each line for the 20 Porta-Potties was easily 50 people deep when I hurried over there to use one. I worried that I would still be in line at the start of the run, and I was, but that hardly mattered. Runners were being released in pretty much self-selected waves, and the whole process took more than an hour. My team waited for me, then we merged with the thousands of other people waiting to shuffle toward the starting line. Beach balls bounced among the crowd, and as we grew closer to the front, volunteers high above were spraying us with colored water. I covered my running watch with my hand, but some colored droplets managed to find it. (Note: the sun was behind a bank of clouds at that time. It was chilly, and getting sprayed with water was, um, fun.)

Eventually, after frisbees and fanny packs and more swag were thrown to the crowd we were far enuf to the front to be part of the self-selected wave, and we were off. We had all decided to each run our own race, so there was no commitment for anyone to stay with anyone else. Two thirds of our team were going to walk the race, which was perfectly acceptable and pretty much matched what two thirds of the entire crowd had chosen to do as well. Walkers were instructed to stay on the right side of the road while we “swift” runners were told to stay on the left. That left the middle ground for runners who would sometimes walk. An informal, loose pack of runners from our team included my humble self, my daughter, my wife’s niece, and her son, Noah. We thought we would run together and have a jolly time. The together part didn’t really work out as the run progressed, but the jolly part did.

We started with the masses and wove our way to the left side of the course. I had no problem letting hundreds of other runners surge ahead of me as our little pack assembled itself. Then we settled in. The course was around the parking lots of the stadium complex, which was not all that inspired but that allowed sufficient space to accommodate the thousands of runners and the “activities” along the way. Soon we were running up a long hill. (I much prefer steep hills that are done with quickly. These long, gradual hills are killers, which I think I reported about in good detail on the recent Memorial Day run.) Young Noah, who will learn the subtleties of pacing (as I am learning), had started out too fast and was getting whipped by the hill. His mom stayed with him, and my daughter and I held back as well. Soon we were walking up the hill, but that was okay since it wasn’t a timed event. Once at the top, we took off again, and soon we were approaching the Yellow station.

This was pretty much the whole point of the Color Run. We would pass through a huge group of volunteers who would throw colored powder at us, festooning our white shirts with the stuff. (Also: our faces, our hair, our expensive running shoes, and our expensive, white running watches.) I was new to this, but the other three I was with were not and walked through the spraying with arms held high to be sure to get the full effect on themselves. (I was still trying to protect my watch with my free hand.) By the time we reached the Yellow station, thousands of other runners had already passed through. The ground was covered with the yellow powder. The air was thick with it. My glasses were soon coated with it. And I wondered just what my lungs thought of it since there was no way to pass through the yellow fog without breathing in some. (It didn’t seem to affect me or anyone else, which I suppose must be a requirement.) I didn’t emerge from the Yellow station nearly as colorful as everyone else, which at first I thought was sensible. That attitude changed.

Once through, we kicked up to running speed again, but Noah was feeling the effects of his early enthusiasm, and soon my daughter and I were trotting along ahead of them. This was okay; as I said, we’d all agreed to run our own races. I hadn’t yet passed the mile mark at this point, so my body was trying to tell me to stop this foolishness and quit running. I knew that once I had gone a mile I would feel differently. Plus, I was running with my daughter, and I couldn’t look weak and pathetic before her! We pushed on, darting around slower runners and runners who had begun walking, making our way around families with strollers (expensive and now colorful strollers) and wagons, and finding a path among groups walking five and six abreast, having a good time but apparently oblivious to being in everyone’s way like that.

Then we came to the Orange station, and the dousing with colored powder repeated itself. This was the first time that I saw people actually rolling on the ground to get a better coating of the colored powder. There were kids of course, sweeping up handfuls of the stuff and wiping it on themselves. But there were adults doing this as well. I think I mentioned that this run was for fun, right?

I did a little better getting plastered with the powder, and my daughter assured me that my watch would come clean, so I wasn’t as protective of it, but I still wasn’t as colorful as many of the other people around me.

Sometime after this, my daughter fell back to run with Noah and his mom, and I just went ahead on my own, which is my normal company of runners anyway. I kept hearing my daughter run up to me and then match my stride, but when I looked over at her, it was always some other woman. I seem to be a handy pacer for many people on these runs. If other runners aren’t using me as a pacing benchmark (probably for their resting running), they use me as their sign to pick up their pace as soon as I pass them. It’s a service I can provide, I guess. So I was out there, running my own race, on my own, fully expecting my marathon-running daughter to pull up at my side at any moment, and just eating up the distance.

Red was the next color station. I was well slathered with it here, and I saw the same displays of adults and children rolling on the ground to better coat themselves. Plus, my lungs weren’t bothered by passing through the red cloud. I walked through this station, expecting my daughter to appear, but she didn’t. So I was off again.

At the Blue station, I gave myself over to the colorists. As I approached it, I could not see the road beyond it through the fog. The air was that thick with the blue powder. I walked slowly past the volunteers with their spray bottles and held my hands high so my torso could be plastered. I walked carefully over the slippery coating of powder on the ground. And then I was through and in the last stretch. By my watch, I still had about three quarters of a mile to go before the finish. I was on my own still, and I just took off at what seemed a comfortable pace.

By this point in the race, the crowds on the course with me had thinned. (There were plenty of other waves still coming behind me though.) I had no trouble sticking to the left side and just trotting along. I passed a few people. Many more passed me. And I just kept going. I could see the finish archway long before I would reach it, and that’s always a tiny bit disheartening even as it means I’m almost done. My daughter never found me, and I finished the run on my own. As usual, especially with an event that has so many walkers, the finish line was crowded. Since it wasn’t a timed event, though, there were no finish mats for me to be sure to cross. When I passed under the archway, I turned off my watch. The morning had warmed by then, and the sun was out, but I was not exhausted or blind with fatigue. I managed to eat three granola bars offered by the generous volunteers and then found myself a bottle of water to sip on. (I was curiously not thirsty.) Then I just stood around and waited for friends and family to arrive. (It was odd being the first to finish among my group since at least three of them could have easily left me in the colored dust. The average pace my watch reported was decent enuf for me, but later when I plugged it into my computer, I saw that the last part, from the Blue station to the finish, was really, really fast for me. Clearly I was warmed up by then, but I had just tried going at a comfortable pace, and it turned out that pace was pretty much the fastest sustained rate I have done so far. I hope that means I’m improving.)

Eventually, my daughter, Noah, and his mom arrived, and soon after, three more friends arrived. We milled about for a while then decided to take ourselves out on the course a short way from the finish and cheer the runners and walkers until the rest of our group came along.

Being made of schmooze, I, of course, shouted all kinds of flattering things to the ladies coming toward the finish. (I was a gentleman.) All of the little kids coming in were fun to watch. As usual, some looked utterly beat while others looked fresh and not bothered at all. Most of the people were covered in color, and some had painted their faces and hair with it. Curiously, there were a few people who came in clean including one man in a spotless white dress shirt. Even walking around the color stations would have meant passing through part of the color cloud.

Soon, the rest of our group appeared, looking happy and colorful. We walked in with them and then gave each other accounts of our adventures. Everyone was happy. After snagging more granola bars and water, and finding that the pizza tent had temporarily run out, we decided to take ourselves to a breakfast restaurant near my house. I’m sure we were quite a spectacle, coming in doused in colorful powder. When I visited the rest room there, I got my first look at myself. My hair was blotched with the rainbow, and I had a bright orange streak running down the side of my face. My shirt, of course, was brightly sparkled. People at the nearby tables marveled at us for a while, and then we pretty much just lost their interest.

My white running watch sits on the desk beside me. I’d like to say that it looks festive and colorful, but all of the colors, combined with my own sweat, have blended into a dirty brown color. Plus it feels gritty. I did a little work on it earlier with a wet cloth, and it should clean up fine. Beside it is my headband from the run, splotched with color. I’m reluctant to wash it, and I’m told if I soak it in vinegar, the colors will stay.

I have another organized run coming up in two days (National Running Day). Then one on Father’s Day. And one in the middle of July (underground again). Then likely more after that. Then that scary half marathon in October. Yeah, I’ve become that guy.

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