I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a race snob. When your first ever road race is also one of the World Marathon Majors, you get a different sense of how races should be organized and executed. With more race experience has come a more realistic expectation of smaller races and the knowledge that some races just have bad days.
I think I expected more out of The Color Run because of its size. 22,000 runners over two days, and it’s a national race series. It’s not like this was their first rodeo. It was their first New England- yes, but I refuse to believe that’s the explanation.
Super Spectator Caitlin decided to get in on the 5K action for the first time and I couldn’t have been more excited to be running her first road race with her. She did this race for two reasons. First, she’s training for a triathlon right now and figured a road race might be good for her. Second, if any race would look appealing it would be the one where you get to be sprayed with fun colors. I wanted this race to be the best first 5K experience anyone could have. If only we knew what we were in for.
We got to the parking lot (which was 8 miles from the race start) two hours before the not well advertised race start time of 10am. We figured that gave us plenty of time to get ready, grab a bus and be one of the first waves out of the start. We parked the car and went to the bus lines. After standing around for a half hour we looked around and realized one very scary fact: There were 3 staff members trying to organize 5,000 people getting on buses. The lines were not official, and the line to the right of us kept merging rushing over to whatever bus pulled closest to them- their turn or not. Over an hour later, we finally squeezed ourselves onto a bus to head to the start.
We got to the start and if any part of the race went well, that was it. Fun DJ keeping the crowd energized, workers making sure the waves were clearly defined (even if it was with crime scene tape) and plenty of shade so at least we weren’t baking in the sun. The waves were about 1,000 per which left plenty of room to spread out once you hit the course. A lot of 5Ks mess this up, so I’ll give them points for crowd control on the actual course.
The Color Run advertises that you’re hit with one color every K. I hadn’t really thought about how the colors were thrown or what it would be like until the night before the race when Jim said “Isn’t not a good idea to inhale powder while you’re running?”. Good point Jim. The orange was first and the dust was a little thicker thank I would have expected for an event that you know people will be running through this stuff. Some colors were lighter than others and didn’t seem so bad. I knew the blue was going to be bad when the workers were wearing safety masks while throwing it. I got two feet into the blue section and thought I was going to choke on the blue dust. It was terrible. I stopped immediately after the dust cleared and gagged for at least a minute. Brutal.
The course itself was beautiful and stretched along a little seaside residential neighborhood. I’m curious how they worked this out with the neighborhood because there were no side streets and these people were literally stuck in their houses while the race went on. The one part of the race that really surprised me was a massive hill in the middle of it. Coming from a girl who ran Heartbreak Hill every Saturday this winter, I’m usually pretty good about hills. This hill was one of the most brutal I’ve ever run in my life. It was an incredibly steep incline with no decline once you finally got to the top. And what was right at the top? Another batch of color. Because when you’re trying to catch your breath after an intense hill run the first thing you want to do is inhale color dust.
The rest of the race went by pretty quickly, lots of color and people having fun. I got to the finish line and looked at my time, when I realized my distance was far more concerning. Since when is a 5K 2.7 miles? Really, Color Run? Few things irritate me more than when a race is not the advertised distance. This was my only complaint about the Providence Half Marathon this year, and that was longer than the 13.1 it was supposed to be. If I had to choose, I would rather it be a little longer than a little shorter. I just felt ripped off. Covered in a thick dust, and ripped off.
Caitlin and I made a strict decision at the start that we were going straight to the busses after the race to try to avoid the crowds after the mess at the start. We finally found the bus pick up (because there were no signs to tell you where it was) and when we got there we were informed there had been a major accident on the highway and traffic was backed up for two hours. The later race waves were also delayed two hours and the busses were massively delayed because what should have been a 10 minute ride each way was now taking 40. There were two parking lots for the event, so we were split into two lines. Thankfully, the transport powers at be were on our side for at least that portion of the day because the busses that were coming were only picking up for our line for some reason. This obviously made the people in the other line less than pleased. Especially when a bus finally arrives for them and it’s a short bus. To rub salt in the wound, when the short bus opened its door, the glass from one of the panels shattered. That line wasn’t pleased.
We finally made it back and decided we needed to celebrate and decompress the only way we know how after races: burgers and beers. The Olympic coverage and locals offering their commentary were added bonuses.
So that’s the Color Run. I would love to think that this is just a fluke occurrence and they are normally a well run event. I can still see the appeal and even think I’ll give it another shot next year if I hear good things from other cities. Every race deserves a second chance. They just have a LOT to make up for.
Have you ever done The Color Run? Did you do it this weekend? Was Sunday better than Saturday? Any good races I missed this weekend? Let’s hear it!