Coloring Health & Happiness

Race Day Team Shirt.

Ready, set, go.

I started running again earlier in June to prepare for the Color Run in September. I wanted to regain the fitness levels I once had in high school. Or, at least feel energized and healthy. High school marked the peak of my athletic life – I played field hockey and ran track. I was in the best shape. Then came college in Boston (the amazing years). Emerson College is well-known for communication and the arts, but not exactly for its sports. There is a joke among Emersonians that Emerson’s football team remains undefeated since 1880 (Emerson does not have a football team). But, I digress…

Preparing for The Race

The Color Run is popularly known as the “Happiest 5K on the Planet.” It started in January 2012 in Utah, and has since spread across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

It combines healthiness with happiness as racers get hit by different paint colors at each kilometer checkpoint. Not only does the race emphasize health, but it also about donations to local and national charities. While the event is for people at all fitness levels, the focus of the race is on fun. No one should feel intimidated to join. Kids, teens, families, students, young professionals, and adults…this race is the perfect introduction to a 5K.

Fair warning: your body gets covered in paint from head to toe. You should consider wearing old clothes, sunglasses, and other colorful accents. You might get very excited and seek out all the colors (and beg others to douse you in paint). Paint may stay on your skin or in your hair for days after the race. Check out my race day recap below.

The Big Day

I remember the day of the Color Run as if it were yesterday. The alarm clock went off at 6 a.m. and the adrenaline was flowing. The night before I’d prepared the essentials: running gear, a Color Run white t-shirt, the Color Run headband, my bib, and (of course) water.

After a final checkup to make sure I brought everything, I left my apartment for the long journey to Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn. With each stop along the ride, a few fellow runners would hop on and our army grew. After Penn Station, the Color Runners took over the train. Local New Yorkers looked puzzled, but did not seem too worried about this minor “invasion.”

Our “Orange Cats” team (consisting of four of us girls) met up around 8:30 AM. How did we come up with this team name? It’s really simple: orange to celebrate my Dutch pride, and cats because everyone on the team likes cats.

Things came full circle when we arrived at Flatbush. A flashback to high school and nostalgia hit me as yellow school buses dropped us off at the racing area (Aviator Sports). Getting on the school bus reminded me of my days playing field hockey. Our bus driver turned up the radio and we all sang along. It was as if I were back in junior year of high school.

Fast forward to a few minutes later. We stood at the start line and counted down with hundreds of people. Color burst into the air from each runner’s packets (runner received a color packet during pickup of our race day essentials) and we took off.

At each kilometer, “colorists” greeted us with a new color. Imagine a cloud of one color splashing on you. It’s a funny, uniting feeling that’s indescribable. You must experience it for yourself, if you can. Our team stayed together through jogs and sprints, and we encouraged fellow runners with high-fives and cheers along the way. In little over 35 minutes (taking into consideration stopping for more color at each station), we completed the 5K. We pulled open our color packets and threw them over each other.

In the end, we resembled smurf-like aliens. We celebrate our victory with ice cream, dancing at the 5K after-party where more colors flew around, and boarded the buses back to reality.

Color Fun or Confusion? 

In our excitement, we decided to experiment: we asked everyone in the subway station for a high-five. Fellow Color Runners did not hesitate to high-five back. Innocent bystanders looked puzzled by our appearance. Some laughed, while others seemed worried. We rewarded ourselves with a brunch while restaurant goers expressed their curiosity. Many seemed genuinely interested.

As I’d mentioned earlier, the journey from Harlem to Brooklyn is an extensive one (about an hour to get back home). For much of the ride (up until about Penn Station), the runners took over the subway. There we were: colored in pink, yellow, blue and green. Throughout the ride, commuters expressed different emotions towards us. Some people wondered about the race itself. Others smiled or cheered us on. But, there were also commuters that seemed disgusted or concerned. People gave funny glances or they glared. One man grumbled to something to himself along the lines of “kids these days and drugs.” But most strange was the woman who refused to sit next to me. Her judgment was confusing and disappointing.

My advice? Enjoy every minute of it. It’s over before you know it. Bring a group of friends and share the joy with people you care about. Don’t worry about others’ perceptions and celebrate your health and happiness.

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