Covered in a thin crust of florescent rainbow colors, I trotted toward a cloud of electric-blue powder surrounded by literally thousands of similarly encrusted people. The thudding of our footsteps filled the air with a war-drum rumble. But this scene was far from the Apocalypse Now reenactment that it sounds like. The smiling faces slipping out of view as I jogged into the mist, and accompanying sounds of laughter, verified that we weren’t engaged in some futuristic guerilla war—we were color running.
The Color Run, a 5k with a twist, made its second annual appearance in Downtown Las Vegas over the weekend, partnering with local charities like Three Square food bank. After every kilometer, white-clad participants are doused in a different shade of rainbow powder, beginning with a pink that might make even Barbie a little nervous. Event organizers emphasize that the run isn’t focused on speed, which should’ve been obvious given the diversity of the crowd. Portly guys in tutus holding inflatable aliens don’t project that “ready for a jaguar-like sprint” vibe.
The fact that the run had the highest attendance of any held Downtown (at more than 10,000 participants) did add a layer of complexity, though. Because runners and walkers weren’t given separate start times and there were so many people, many of us didn’t actually begin until an hour after the promised 8:30 a.m. start.
Still, I’ve never seen so many people so amped up to be pelted with powder. The emcee did a decent job appeasing the waiting runners with schwag—including fanny packs (go ’80s!)—but he had the unfortunate habit of counting down to nothing in particular, which logically gave the crowd the false impression that the run was beginning and caused it to surge forward a few times.
Once we hit the road for real, though, the race was a ball. The fact that most people seemed to be walking after the first kilometer actually made it a little more fun. If you were running, the scene quickly shifted into an obstacle course with a fantastic people-watching bonus. If you stayed with the group you started with, you missed out on cheerleaders with “color this” plastered on their butts and “Team Fancy Pants” speed-walking in a collection of the weirdest leggings I’ve ever seen (cheetah print and clown stripes?).
Whether you were walking, running, watching or throwing color, the festivity of the run was pretty infectious. At one point a grumpy-looking man and his pit bull came out of their house to see what all the fuss was about. When they both looked up, scowls transformed into smiles and tail wags.
Although organizers promised that all the paint and powder was safe and would come off in the wash, it takes a little more than a good scrub to rid yourself of the rainbow dye job. But by the end of the event, most of us decided that was a good thing.
There’s something anyone can appreciate about the childish glee of making an unrepentant mess. And all that glee means that despite the pandemonium and crowds, the Color Run will probably be back next year in a huge way—weirder, more crowded and more colorful than ever.