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10 Tips to Make Your Color Run Awesome(r)

Lilly white at the start line with my run-buddy @AllieHarch!

Today I ran Philadelphia’s inaugural Color Run with my friend and fellow blogger @AllieHarch. It was my first 5k, and the biggest Color Run in the world to date!

The Color Run is an awesome 5k that makes running fun and accessible for athletes of all levels – even someone like me who hates running. While a wave of “tough” runs add obstacles and challenges to their courses, The Color Run marks your route with clouds of primary and secondary colors and celebrates your finish the the best rainbow-colored 8am dance party you’ll ever attend.

Despite almost backing out at 10pm last night, I am so very happy I followed through. I feel awesome from the exercise, and covered my smile quotient for the week. The thrill that went through the crowd as we approached either color zone was incredible, and the party at the end was actually fun!

Sound like your kind of revent? There are Color Runs all over the world! If you decide do do one, here are some tips for your from someone who just ran his first race (and who also happens to work to produce one of the largest races in the country).

Our friend @mayasalloum after her rainbow partying at the finish.

1. Be prepared.

If you drive to the run, pack a fresh change of clothes (sneakers, too!) and two sheets or towels – one to lay your shirt on to dry, and another for the seat of your car.

If you don’t drive, at least pack a small gym towel or kerchief in your running sack.

For the race itself, keep your phone and keys in a plastic bag. Even if they’re stain-proof, you don’t want the paste of sweat and color-dust on them.

2. Do the (first) wave.

Post-Run, but Pre-Party

If you want to make the most of the post-race party and the rest of your day, line up early.

We lined up at 6:30am and we were in the first wave to cross the start line at 7am, with no delay. Waves were still releasing when we finished! That gave us plenty of time to take photos and party without it being too crowded.

3. Run, don’t race.

As 5k events go, I did not get the impression that this was one where you should strive to set a personal record. For one, you’ll miss out on getting blasted with color on the course! While I certainly ran enough to make it challenging, the people having the most fun were with groups of friends laughing with each other and meeting new people.

Front row at the party!

4. Avert your eyes.

Well, maybe not avert, but cover them up with a cool pair of shades! Judging from the artillery fire of pinks and purples on my glasses, they were the right way to go. You’ll be squinting and wincing constantly without them.

5. Breath easy.

I found it a little challenging to breath in the 30 seconds after each color zone – it’s as if a bag of colorful flour exploded in your kitchen!

If you think this will bother you, just buy a cheap, disposable dust mask at the drug store to wear in the color zones until the dust clears. Don’t worry, there is plenty of clear space between them to breath freely.

6. Colors run, wet sets.

Sweating through my shirt seemed to set the colors, and encouraged them to bleed into each other, creating a muddy mess where orange met green. Similarly, my sweatiest body parts attracted/absorbed the most color.

If you really want a distinctly colored splatter on your commemorative shirt, wear a tank top beneath your shirt to slow down the colors from running.

Allie and I looking ridiculous, mid-party.

7. Use your head(band).

Going along with that last one, you really don’t want sweat on your face and in your eyes at this event. Make use of the freebie sweatband and/or wear a bandanna.

8. A colorful party.

You can only accumulate so much color on the course itself. If you really want to become a rainbow you need to locate the party at your finish line, where they continue to dispense color packets like Pez while everyone dances. Even if you’re not up for a dance party, the festive environment is unique and very photogenic.

9. The brush-off.

Resist the urge to rinse off your face at the finish or advance immediately to scrubbing when you return home. Your first pass at your face should be a gentle brushing off using facial tissue or a makeup pad. Then, try dabs of olive oil rather than water.

I have sensitive skin and huge, hungry pores, but this tactic kept my face free and clear post-race.

Rainbow haze.

10. Color within the lines.

If you rely on your face, hands, or other bare body part for work or play, consider protecting them from the end-of-run color. Despite dedicated scrubbing of my hands, I’m afraid to play guitar or read graphic novels – my two big Sunday pastimes!

In retrospect, I might have appreciated a set of rubber gloves to wear at the party.


  1. Elaine wrote:

    Looks like a lot of fun. Made me think of “King-fish”- only with a purpose. The color run benefits a homeless charity- Yes?

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  2. krisis wrote:

    It did have that carnival-esque quality to it. The run itself is a for-profit corporation, but it does pair with a local charity in each area – here with the phenomenal Back on My Feet.

    Who would ever think that I would voluntarily run over three miles! I used to do anything in my power to get out of running a single one in gym class.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  3. Jem wrote:

    We did the Color me rad back in June, which was essentially the same thing. It was THE MOST FUN I HAVE EVER had running! Congrats on finishing a 5k. It is a great feeling, especially when you’re a walking work of abstract art!

    Monday, July 9, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  4. krisis wrote:

    While I’m never going to work up to things like the Tough Mudder, I am all for 5ks that involve human rainbows, obstacle courses, running from the undead, etc.

    Monday, July 9, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink
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