A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a photo of Amber Recker after a 5K event is worth just one: Fun.
With a big smile, Recker of Fort Wayne reveals a set of hot pink teeth. Blue paint splatters her face and obscures the view behind her oversized, stylish sunglasses. Her once-white T-shirt is nothing but – decorated in colored corn starch that was thrown at her along the course of last summers Color Run in Indianapolis.
I left Indy thinking that was the most fun Ive had in my entire life, Recker says.
Over the course of 3.1 miles, participants wearing white are bombed with dyed corn starch packets at stations along the path, at finish-line festivities and by fellow runners who are given a packet at check-in. The end result is a runner who looks like she went through a tie-dye machine.
The events are relatively new to the running scene – the Color Run had its first event in January 2012 – but have rapidly grown in popularity. Last year, the Color Run stopped in 50 U.S. cities and three international locations, attracting more than 600,000 runners. This year, the company hopes to attract more than a million runners at its 100 U.S. events – including a stop in Fort Wayne on July 27.
In fact, the Color Run will be among three paint runs in the city this summer, with the Color Vibe on June 29 and Color Me Rad on Aug. 24.
Recker is registered for two of the Fort Wayne runs – the Color Run and Color Me Rad – teaming up with friend Heather Schoegler, who also attended the event in Indianapolis last year.
Im not a runner. I have enjoyed it but the best part of running is the race, Schoegler says. (The Color Run) was just the most fun race. At the end, theres a big celebration and color explosions going on.
Last year, Schoegler recruited a couple friends to form a team to run with her and Recker, and the two are doing so again for the July and August events.
People that I wouldnt have ever thought to ask, Ive seen them posting about doing these runs, Recker says. When I do 5Ks, theres this little group of people that I always ask, and theyre the runners and theyll come out and do the 5K with me. This is everybody. People who have never run at all are, like, Im going to go out and do this.
Jessica Nixon, public relations specialist for the Color Run, says about 60 percent of the events runners have never participated in an organized 5K. The events are not timed, and Schoegler and Recker agree that it removes the intimidation factor that other races might have.
A lot of them use this 5K as their goal and use it as a celebration for becoming healthy, happy and active, Nixon says.
Amanda Macias of Huntertown recently began working out with some family and friends, and they thought it would be fun to sign up for a 5K to stay motivated.
After talking with my co-workers, it seemed like the Color Me Rad race was more welcoming for people who have never ran a 5K, Macias says. It didnt seem as serious as other races and to me that was more appealing.
Macias is training for the race and will run it as part of a team of more than 20, spearheaded by a cousin who is a personal trainer.
And though it helps to have an enthusiastic runner rounding up friends, the popularity of the events is largely driven by social media. Ryan Hall, event director for the Color Vibe, says much of the advertising budget is spent on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, photos taken after the event are often shared on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, fueling the buzz and attracting new runners, organizers say.
Youre running around and people are throwing powder on you, which sounds so ridiculous, but I think the thing that makes it so fun is the social aspect in the taking pictures, getting each other dirty and then social sharing that goes on afterward, Recker says. I had fun for weeks afterward just looking at everyones Facebook photos and Instagram photos.