A review of the happiest 5km on the planet – the Color Run Johannesburg
Last Wednesday (24.09), which happened to be Heritage Day, we were invited by The Color Run to partake in the Color Run Johannesbrg. The Color Run was founded in 2012 and has since become a global phenomenon, taking place in over 30 countries.
Brought into South Africa last year, this year the event has seen an incredible amount of growth, no doubt due to epic race organiser& running superstar (Two time Comrades gold medallist and Athens Marathon winner) Leon Swanepoel taking over the licence to Color Run Africa.
“The Color Run is about getting new people who have never participated in a road running event before. We have seen and statistics have shown that 70% of the field at Color Runs have never participated before. Running and walking is such great exercise BUT it’s also boring so the Color Run concept really got my imagination running. I realised we could get people moving and having fun at the same time. I’ve been in the event business for 23 years now, we have organised competitive events, world championships and corporate events and as a race organiser I saw that a 5km fun run could get me excited again.”
Going to the Colour Run Johannesburg we wanted to find out:
·Is The Color Run more about promoting fun or fitness?
·What target audience does the run attract?
·What is the general vibe of the race?
·What distinguishes The Color run from other events?
·The Color Run as a whole is vocal about giving back. Does Color Run SA give back and if so where are the funds being allocated?
· Ps. We also wanted to know all about that paint. Environmentally friendly? Staining? Easy to remove? And, Is it Color or Colour?
Come Wednesday we did what any other runner following a strict running schedule would do. We woke up at 5am, did our scheduled 10km training run, refuelled and dressed in our oldest running gear.
We made our way to Roosevelt High School in Emmarentia for a (trainer unauthorised) bonus fun run. I mean how fast could it really be… and 5 kilometres is like not even running…
Start Time: 10am (Any runner worth their polly shorts will tell you that you that you can tell a lot about what kind of race it is by the starting time. A 10am start time? Leave the pace chart at home, you’re in for a fun run.)
Cost: R200-R220 P. Person. + Optional merchandise (R5.00 – R90.00) Kids under 10 run for free (if accompanied by an adult. No fun pack included)
The Weather A 10am start time means the sun is out in full force. It happened to be a gorgeous summer day of 30°C. Totally off game, we forgot the sunscreen at home and were only conscious of it when a nervous house wife marched passed our car, explaining loudly on her phone ‘…& don’t forget the sunscreen!’
Treaty Tip: Bring Sunscreen, apply and then reapply!
Parking For those who attend the annual Total Sports Ladies Race, you will be familiar with the venue. Parking is readily available, although depending on the time you arrive, you may have to walk a bit. (hello warm-up!)
The ever present racing car guards were out in full force and seemed to have gotten the race brief of ‘happiest 5km on the planet’. Result? They tipped the scales of enthusiasm by racing through the streets, weaving through cars and wildly motioning the jittery drivers while all the drivers tried to do was carefully maneuverer around the moving bodies so as not to accidently hit anyone. Yes kind sirs, we see that free parking spot and the other ten next to it – the biggest obstacle might be you…
Criticism aside, after the race we chatted to the energetic and bubbly car guard closest to our car who was beaming about the vibe of the race. A runner too, who ‘was thinking about doing The Color Run but focuses on 10 & 21km races so decided it would be too laid back’. He regretted that decision after seeing how much fun everyone was having and how well it was organised. His name was Never Matiya and to most people that name won’t sound familiar but it should.
Not only had the race organisers organised about 20 porta potties on the field, but we also spotted another one half way through the course. If only the more serious races would take note, we would run a lot more comfortably L (Ps.This is also another tell-tale sign of what kind of race you are doing.
Color Run Johannesburg Race Packs
Each entry came with a white t-shirt with the words color run, emblazed (in colour of course) on the front and a white sweat band with the words “Color Runner” printed.
While in the “serious” racing world there’s an unspoken rule that you never where a race’s official shirt during the race, this was a necessary ‘faux pas’ that the majority of Color Runners (including us) were happy to make!
We arrived at the race start line, faced with a sea of Color Runners kitted out in the same shirts and many made use of the optional merchandise purchase option and were bedecked in the colorful kit on offer – funky striped knee high socks, tutus, wigs and sunglasses.
Siblings Georgia and Joshue Eccles fully kitted out in Color Run Gear
The Color Run Johannesburg
Runners were advised to get to the start line (on the road just outside the high school) at 9am where the men of Sweat 1000entertained the crowd with a warm up routine. To avoid congestion, runners were sent out in waves of approximately 1000 every 10 minutes (As an unofficialcount, an excess of 6000 runners took part).
The guys of Sweat1000 getting the crowds warmed up
We began with the first group which was led by a group of tweens and tiny tots, who flew out of the starting pens in a flash! (Many had the stamina to keep the flash!)
The young ones leading the way
It was a relatively flat route, with a few hills thrown in for good measure. Overall it was a manageable route for any fitness level. There were four color stations, all located within the surrounding park. Each station was themed a different colour and was manned by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who sang and danced while splattering each runner with a cloud of color run dust!
The Color Run JHB Route Map and Profile
“[The paint points] were purposefully set out in the park area to help with clean up post-race. Completely environmentally friendly, it is made up of corn starch and color dyes and flavouring agents and absorbs back into the ground.”
The Pink Color Zone
There were water tables set up around the halfway mark and finish line long before the race started. There was ample water and coke handed out at both locations with a packet of color die thrown in at the finish table for runners to use in the Color flash later on.
While the older runners (read above 18 years) clearly viewed this as a casual run, to the youngsters it was a race and they were in it to win it. It was incredible watching these kids give it their all and sprint their way through the course.
Listening to a group of young boys encourage each other not to stop to walk was ‘awwww’ inducing and the little girl who exclaimed to, who must have been her little sister, ‘Tell me if you get tired but I think we’re like the top 10’ melted our hearts.
Our favourite was seven year old Amber Fairon, who we caught up to just after the 1km mark, she glanced at the two us with a look that said “move over, old ladies, this is my race” and sped off. She stopped to walk a few times, but as soon as we caught up she was game on and set off leaving us in her colorful dust.
Amber Fairon coming into the finish
Chatting to the tweens of the race afterwards we discovered that many of them do cross country at school and have such a pure love of running. If you are looking for the next generation of SA runners, you’ll find them at the Color Run, overtaking runners four times their age with not so much as a glance backwards!
Aiden Peterson, Ross Gauld, Sebastian Walker and Mathew Freer
Value for money
You cannot look at the cost as the cost of doing a 5km run. You need to view the price as the cost of a full day event. While regular racers may scoff at the high price, they are not the target.
The Color Run is targeting families looking for a fun and active day out, friends who want to do something different and those that want to run but are intimidated by the more serious race fixtures.
Friends Yolandi, Marilyn, Werner and Boin ready to have some fun!
The Color Run shows people how being active is fun, and is a fabulous way to introduce your kids to fitness, and as we saw a great way for kids to let their competitive natures shine.
We were incredibly impressed by the level of organisation and surprised by how much fun we had. Speaking to participants before and after the run, we heard only positive comments and saw only joy. They call it the happiest 5km on the planet, and we can verify that it was the happiest and most fun 5km we’ve ever done!
Race organiser Leon Swanepoel said of the race that “It is a big family event” and it wasn’t just lip service. This was not a booze filled party scene with young adults and ‘trendsetters’ trying to project an image.
It is a family event and it was amazing to see. There was every shape and size, there were parents, kids, friends. Everyone was there excited and pumped to be active, to be outdoors and to have fun. Post-race there were families setting up picnics around the field and crowds of finishers interacting at the stage where Color Flashes went off, covering everyone in a colourful mess of fun.
A Purple Color Flash
They were there enjoying their public holiday in the best way – celebrating heritage day with a Color Run… Could there have been a more perfect day association or what!?
Not every run is supposed to be serious and now and again, when you remove the pacing, the strategy, the time and the pressure you get to remember just why you run.
Haven’t participated yet? The Color Run will next be in Cape Town on October 18, Nelspruit on November 15, Pretoria November 22 and Hermanus on December 27. In December you will also find it at all the holiday destinations… Ballito, Bloem, Mossel Bay, Grahamstown, PMB and Plettenburg Bay. There will be ample opportunity to get your Color on and we recommend that you do: Enter Here
·Is the Color Run more about promoting fun or fitness?
ü Both and it succeeds. Out of all the runners interviewed all were there for the run and to have fun and all our interviewees loved the run and had fun.
·What target audience does the run attract?
ü Families, teens, kids, friends.
· What is the general vibe of the race?
ü Amazing. The vibe during the day was a definite highlight, specifically after the run.
· What distinguishes The Color Run from other events?
ü “No time keeping, no results, no prize money and no chasing records. It’s just about having great fun.”
· The Color Run as a whole is vocal about giving back. Does Color Run SA give back and if so where are the funds being allocated?
ü “We don’t associate with a national charity, we prefer to be per city based on the partnerships that we form. In the Color Run Johannesburg it is Afrika Tikkun, it’s a child welfare organisation from cradle to careers. This is not a fundraising event so we do not splash it, we just make a donation afterwards.”
· What about that paint?
ü There was paint removal blowing machines at the finish helping runners dust off! For those who proceeded home without making use of this you should note the following:
oIt comes off in one wash but seems to lightly stain in random skin creases.This faded within a day.
Paint stain in elbow crease
oDo not wash your Color Run Tee with other white clothing! We placed ours in a washing machine with other colored garments. The colored garments all came out in their original shades. The Color Run Tee, not so much… and is now a pretty tie-dyed pink.
· Is it Color or Colour? Both are correct. Color is the preferred American English version. Founded in the US, The Color Run thus makes use of the American spelling. As owners of the license, the SA Color run has to abide by the global footprint. What are your thoughts on the Color Run Johannesburg?