Jul. 04, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Goat: “There are a lot of different ‘color runs’ popping up lately. Have you ever done one of those?” Powdered Puff

Dear Puff: Strange you should ask. My wife, Kristine, and I just completed the San Antonio Color Me Rad 5K this past weekend in celebration of her 33rd birthday.

On the whole, color runs are simply a sub-category of the adventure race genre most-often referred to as “novelty runs.” Whereas a mud run is a 5K or 10K slogging through thick viscous lanes of sludge, color runs are typically short, family-friendly lanes that allow volunteers and machines to hose down participants with liquid or powdered “Color Bombs.”

There are several “brands” of colored novelty runs, the original being “The Color Run.” There is also the “Pink Color Runs,” “Color Vibe,” and “Graffiti Runs.” Most follow a similar format. We chose to cast our lot on the “Color Me RAD” brand. Sound intriguing? Here were my impressions.

5K races are short, with only 3.1 miles to cover. As such, they do not demand a lot of space for setup. For race organizers, the object of a color run is to hose down all runners with bright colors. The three colors used by the Color Me RAD are pink, yellow and blue/purple. Since most of these races are urban, logistics demand the course weave back and forth through a large parking area or field. The San Antonio Color Me RAD was located in the parking area of the Freeman Coliseum and Expo Hall in the downtown area. Stations were setup for volunteers to throw handfuls of dyed corn starch powder at runners as they passed. Each registrant had a shirt to “stain” with vivid blotches, a temporary “RAD” tattoo and bright novelty sunglasses to protect the eyes. I wore a tech-tube buff over my nose and mouth to keep the powder out of my respiratory track.

Several things made this particular race less than enjoyable for me. First, there were only five color stations on the entire course. Three threw powder and two fired liquid dye through a hose. I guess I imagined, or was wrongfully presented with a different impression from the website, I’d be dashing through huge clouds of swirling powdered clouds, laughing and loving the colored chaos. Instead, every three-quarters of a mile I was funneled into a mass of children and walkers scrambling to get hit by a hose or small cloud.

Second, the lanes merely wove back and forth through a parking lot. The lanes were little more than orange engineer tape, and many folks stepped over the lanes to shorten the already short course. Maybe 15 percent of participants ran at all and the lanes were very congested. Last, and definitely not the organizer’s fault, a flash flood began at the start of the race and the powder became a vicious glue matrix that slimed over pavement and participant. Like melting crayons together as a child, what was to be a “rainbow shirt” was little more than a dull reddish-brown sack covered in sticky starch. Yay.

If the organizers had altered the course for some variety, added more color bomb stations, and allowed different waves based on estimated finish times or running paces, I would have found the experience better. My wife, however, loved the race; particularly after the storm began. She had an absolute blast. She threw color bombs and giggled the entire way through the anarchy. In fact, I’d argue 80 percent or more of the runners and walkers loved everything about the race. My advice is to give it a try and see what impression you get from a “color run.”