Last Updated on January 29, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Since I’ve changed my focus to races that are outside of the norm and off the beaten path, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about color runs. It seems there are mixed opinions about the validity of such a “race” (not hardcore enough for the OCR crowd, and just plain silly for the road racing crowd).
So much so that it was even the topic of the Editor’s Letter for the June 2013 issue of Runner’s World.
While Runner’s World editor, David Willey, seems to think the color run is a passing fad, just like obstacle course racing, there is no denying the immense popularity of the color runs that have burst onto the scene (no pun intended). I for one, think color runs are a fantastic idea for getting people off the couch, becoming active, and having FUN.
But the truth is…I’ve never run one. (Note, since the original publishing of this post, I have now run a color run myself. You can read that review here: The Color Vibe Race Review)
So while I can give you generic tips, I thought it would be fun to hear from someone who has experienced a color run. While you are reading this, I am Pittsfield, likely covered in mosquito bites, so I’m handing it over to Sylvia. Enjoy, and I’d love to hear your opinions/thoughts/questions/concerns regarding color runs in the comments below.
Color Run 101: What You Need to Know About The Color Run Craze
While “The Color Run” is indeed the name of a very specific race series, color runs in general having been growing in popularity. Their “all fun, no competition”, untimed, party-like atmosphere is perfect for both runners AND non runners alike, of all ages.
The premise is this: you run through a pre-marked course, typically a 5K route. At various “color stations” throughout the course, participants are doused from head to toe in a different colored powder.
The “color” used in color runs is typically a fine powder, consisting of a combination of cornstarch, baking soda and FD&C (food safe) dyes. The powder, such as this powder from The Color Blaze (Amazon affiliate link) is usually non-toxic, free of heavy metals, and all certified. But as always, if you have ANY concerns, check with the race directors before the event!
The following tips will help you make the most of your first color run experience!
Maximize your Fun & Experience at Color Runs with These 10 Tips:
Hello! My name is Sylvia, and I blog at Frolic Through Life. While Heather is volunteering at the Spartan Death Race (so badass!) she asked if I could tell you guys about my experience with the Color Run, as well as share some tips on how to survive your first color run!
Tip #1: Run With a Group
When I participated in the Color Run the run last year, I tried to get a team together, but for one reason or another, we ended up only being a team of two. It was fun, no question about it. But the more people you can get, the more fun it will be!
At the event there were teams that went all out and made costumes too, which was a lot of fun to watch. Definitely a race to wear a tutu to, if that’s your thing!
Tip #2: Wear White
Wear as much white as possible to your color run. I wore a white t-shirt, but stuck to my trusty black capris. Even though the after effect was cool, it would have been that much better is I had worn more white. I loved seeing people wearing white knee socks, and I’m planning on wearing those this year as well!
Tip #3: Take “Before” Pictures
Take before pictures before the start of your color run. It is fun to look back at how clean you looked at the start of the event, compared to how much colored powder you are covered in at the end.
Tip #4: Be Prepared to Walk
Even though they are called color runs, there are a ton of walkers, people with strollers, young children, etc. Most of the people at my event walked in groups, especially through the color stations. In some spots it was hard to get passed the walkers, so we had to walk too.
Tip #5: Decide How Colorful You Want to Get
Decide how colorful you want to get. At most runs, there are high color lanes and low color lanes. If you want to get really colorful, go through the high color lanes. The volunteers will make sure you get nice and colorful, and if you stay away they will respect that. Even though the website will say that the color will wash right off, it isn’t that easy. I had a baby shower to attend on the afternoon of my run, and no matter how much I scrubbed there was a yellow patch on my forehead and some blue on my back that wouldn’t budge for a few days. At least I was able to brag about my run at the party.
Tip #6: Leave Your Favorite Clothes at Home
Don’t wear anything you don’t want to get stained. Even though The Color Run’s website says that the colored powder isn’t permanent, and that the color comes out of your clothing, in my experience, not all of it will.
I wore a white t-shirt that I intentionally left colorful, by spraying it with vinegar and ironing the color into it after the race. But I also wore a white sports bra underneath my shirt that had never returned to its original color.
Your shoes may also stain, but personally I think they look pretty sweet with color splotches.
Tip #7: Wear Sunglasses
Sunglasses are a must. If you don’t cover your eyes, you will be miserable! The colored powder floats in the air and will irritate your eyes as you pass through the color stations.
(Note from The Color Run’s FAQ page: “Will running through the colored powder affect my breathing or vision?”
Answer: “Our color powder is all certified non-toxic and free of any heavy metals. Our bright colors are a combination of cornstarch, baking soda, and FD&C (food-safe) dyes. Some Color Runners opt to wear glasses or goggles for their eyes and use a bandana or dust mask for their mouths. Our certified Color Throwers make sure to aim low as you pass by”.
Tip #8: Protect Your Electronics
Be careful with electronics. The race website recommend putting everything in a Ziploc bag to keep electronics, such as a cell phone or camera, safe from the colored powder.
Personally, I was able to bring my older camera and get some great shots along the course (like the ones in this post!) without worrying about damaging it.
Tip #9: Bring a Change of Clothing
At the finish line of The Color Run, there were a number of stations where volunteers will “blow” the excess colored powder off of you, using leaf blowers. Despite these stations, most of the color won’t come off at the race site. Having a change of clothing to put on after the race may leave you feeling more comfortable.
Further, to protect you car, I suggest also brining a towel to cover your seats. Even if you change your clothes, this will help prevent any colored powder left on your skin, hair, or other accessories from getting on your car upholstery. My backseat was blue for quite some time!
Tip #10 Have Fun!
This isn’t the type of race that you will set a PR (personal record) in. Most color runs aren’t even timed!
Color runs are the type of place to get a group of friends together, and get silly. Oh, and if your run has a color party at the end, get right in the middle and enjoy!
Thanks again to Sylvia for providing these great tips to make the most out of Color Runs!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.