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Since the first Australian Color Run was held in Melbourne in late 2012, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing one. I know that it’s had its controversies — in particular, many people have accused it of cheapening the Hindu festival of Holi, where people take to the streets of India throwing coloured powder to celebrate the coming of spring — but after having spoken to a number of Indian friends, I realised that there’s another side to the argument since many actually felt that the fun run was just allowing more people to experience what they considered to be one of the most fun days of the year.
Yes, it’s true that it’s not celebrating the beginning of spring, given that in Brisbane, it was held on the first day of winter. So what is it celebrating? Pretty much just the fact that we’re alive and that we’re able to have a fun day out with 15,000 of our closest friends. Everyone I know that has participated in one said it was one of the most entertaining fun runs they’d ever done, and after photographing the Brisbane event — and running/walking most of the 5k track in the process — I completely agree.
No one was unhappy here. Everyone had a giant smile on their face — one of those giant smiles that makes your cheeks hurt after a while. I was pretty impressed, since I struggle to smile while running — it’s not exactly my favourite sport — yet everyone was.
So what exactly does a Color Run entail besides, well, colours?
With your race pack, you’re given a white Color Run t-shirt, headband, and a pack of ‘colour’ (dyed corn flour). Early on the morning of the race, you’ll pile in the car (which you’ve hopefully covered in towels) and drive to the race course, which is probably overwhelmed with cars (so you should get there early!).
Notice I didn’t say anything about running preparation. It’s not really needed.
You’ll line up and wait your turn as 500-1,000 people at a time are let through the gates and onto the course, where they are immediately sprayed with a rainbow of colours from laughing volunteers with super soakers. While you’re waiting, you won’t get bored. Loud music and the event MC will keep you dancing until it’s time for your group to take off.
Once you’re on the course, you’ll encounter a ‘colour zone’ every 1km, each featuring a different colour. You can sprint through these, trying to avoid the volunteers with squirt bottles full of colours, but what’s the fun in that?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can spend as much time as you want here, rolling in the powder on the ground and pouring colour on the heads of all of your friends. I definitely recommend the latter — this is not a race you’re worried about winning anyway.
Other random things pop up all along the race as well. One of my favourites was the bubble zone, which was filled with more bubbles than a 4-year-old’s birthday party.
You’ll run right into the “finish festival” — a huge party in front of a stage with a few DJs where you can dance to your heart’s content. Every 15 minutes, using either the colour packet provided to you before the race or one of the many that are tossed into the crowd from the stage, there is a “colour throw,” which was probably my favourite part of the race. In unison, everyone throws an array of colours into the air, creating one of the most vibrant and beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. Everyone’s smiles could not have gotten any bigger.
It was hard to tear myself away from the finish festival, and it was only after the final colour throw that I started to find my way back to the car and the inevitable clean-up. Helping us with that cleanup were people armed with leaf-blowers at the exits. I didn’t feel like I was too colourful, but after seeing the cloud of dust that emanated from my clothes, I realised just how much powder there had been in my clothes (and hair, and everything else).
This leads to a few words of warning: if you have breathing problems, this is probably not the race for you. That said, I’ve been suffering from chest infections as late but didn’t feel any after-effects other than finding that tissues turned a funny colour after I blew my nose. That’s a bit shocking the first time you see it.
Also, if you value your phone or camera, make sure you either leave them at home or properly shield them from the colour. This article on PetaPixel shows what happens to the inside of uncovered cameras and lenses; essentially, once it’s there, it’s not coming out — and if you try to clean it, you’ll likely just end up with a smear of colour that destroys all future photos. Same for phones — the colour will seep into anything it can and will gunk up anything it can.
So what do I recommend? A plastic bag at the very minimum for any phones. You don’t want to end up like the poor lady I saw whose phone fell out of her pocket and exploded into phone, battery, and cover in the middle of the yellow zone.
For cameras, I saw plenty of solutions. Some had taped up any opening they could possibly find (as well as the end of their lenses around the filters). I went for a waterproof bag — for around $100, I had a completely watertight cover that kept all dust out and had a filter built into it so I wasn’t shooting through semi-transparent ziploc bags.. The only issue I had was near the super soakers — the humidity there tended to make the lens fog up so I had to open the case (away from the colour zones) to let it air out.
Yes, it made the camera significantly more difficult to use and ruled out the use of the lens I had wanted to use — my 70-300mm — because it simply didn’t fit. But it also meant that I was able to get a lot closer to the action than I would have been comfortable with otherwise and I didn’t have to destroy my gear in the process. I’m doing another Colour Run in October and I will be doing the same thing there.
Disclosure: I had a media pass for this event but was in no way sponsored or employed by the Color Run. All opinions stated here are my own.