I’ve returned from the bowels of inanity, and its name is Color Vibe.
“Racing with a twist” seems to be the latest craze in running. It began with your St. Patrick’s Day races with event promoters encouraging participants to wear their finest in Irish memorabilia, green top hats, and short leprechaun skrits for the ladies. Eventually it spanned to Christmas-themed races with participants donning reindeer antlers, Santa hats, and the girls inevitably in short Christmas skirts. Now you can even find Valentine’s Day races with runners in Cupid-style diapers, stuffed bows and arrows, and the ladies yet again in uncomfortably short skirts.
The Evolution Of Racing
At some point in this evolution of race promotion, events changed the racing course rather than just what the participants wear. This led to your Warrior Dashes, Muddy Buddies, Tough Mudders, etcetra. Instead of just a boring ole 5K or 10K, you can get your hands dirty and experience a new challenge. Having run a Warrior Dash, I can attest to their worthiness to exist. The Warrior Dash challenges you in ways a simple 5K doesn’t. It’s fun, encourages a different kind of exercise, and women — as they seemingly so often wish — can wear short skirts.
But just as every family has someone with a screw or two loose, so too do these new batch of “races with a twist.” For Exhibit A, I present Color Vibe — allegedly a 5K that leaves racers covered in an array of colors reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting.
Yesterday morning, I ran the Color Vibe race in Tallmadge, Ohio (just outside of Akron) at the Summit County Fairgrounds with a small group of friends. We admittedly weren’t sure what to expect, other than that we were to wear clothes we didn’t mind having sprayed in colored powder. But hey! The sun was shining, it was a comfortable 50-some-degrees, and it was an excuse to be outside. It would take a special kind of effort to screw this up.
Again, I present to you — Color Vibe.
“A Poorly Planned Gimmick”
We arrived rather easily, picking up our packets, and quickly throwing our complimentary packets of colored powder all over one another like children running through a sprinkler on a hot summer day. Giddy and excited, we meandered into the next wave set to run the race. Before long, we were off. And shortly after crossing the starting line, it became apparent in every way imagineable that not only had we wasted $40, but we would have better spent it purchasing a nice bottle of whiskey. At least then we would have had the joy of drinking whiskey, and not the stinging feeling of regret that comes with the realization of having wasted forty bucks on a poorly planned gimmick that makes putting a slide on a playground seem ingenious.
The course began with orange cones lined up in a manner that had us running on a rather small field of grass, slithering back and forth like a snake. Though to say we were all “running” paints a misleading picture. Sure, some of us attempted to run. But an overwhelming number of participants opted to walk the entirety of the 5K — a warning I now see under the website’s FAQ. Though I humbly suggest they offer another warning, that anyone with a remote desire to exert themselves physically should instead run as far away as possible from ongoing Color Vibe events.
Now, I don’t need every race to be a competition of elite athletes. I’m cool with a “fun race.” But it’s hardly much to ask for an attendant of some sort to be on hand, encouraging walkers to one side and runners to the other. This makes it much less likely that a three-year-old will get run over, which almost happened on numerous occasions. Either bring some sanity to the chaos, or just call it an event for walkers only.
Unsure of when the “fun” part was to happen, I noticed an upcoming station with Color Vibe workers ready to throw more colored powder on passersby. And that was it. For the entirety of the race. A handful of stations where you simply get a little more color thrown on you.
You see, where races like Warrior Dash succeed is that they provide obstacles and equipment not readily accessible to the participating public. My friends and I can pool together far less than what we spent on Color Vibe, buy our own packets of colored dust, run around a parking lot like headless chickens, and call it a day without the help of Color Vibe.
Instead, we unknowingly paid strangers to gingerly throw colored dust at us, while running back and forth on the kind of jagged surface parking lots you see in Apocalyptic movies. I mean, who designed this thing? Somewhere, a group of educated people sat in a room and decided that running around busted surface parking lots would not only be an enjoyable experience, but one worth spending money on, and one the American public needed! It truly sounds like something concocted by a group of stoned college students.
“Hey, man… You know what would be funny? If like, you ran around a parking lot, and I threw packets of colored powder at you.”
This practice of running zig-zagged across parking lots around the county fairgrounds continued for a majority of the race — a race that I question actually being a 5K.
America, I’m scared. Nay, I’m terrified. I’m terrified, because the creators of Color Vibe were not only able to convince themselves that this experience of Tour de Parking Lots is a needed, worthwhile endeavor, but a fun one to boot.
If their sole purpose was to get people outside, then that’s applaudable. But unless you live in a back alley dumpster, I promise that any 5K walk or run you can plan around your neighborhood would be infinitely more scenic than the craptastic, rubble-laden course provided by Color Vibe.
But if it’s the energy of the crowd you seek, either hold out for any other race within a 50-mile radius, or eat a bowl of sugar, put Justin Bieber on iTunes, and turn the volume up as high as you can until your ears bleed. It will be a far more enjoyable experience.
LeahMay 4, 2013 at 12:26 am
Thank you for putting into words exactly what I have been feeling in the two weeks since the Rochester Color Vibe. Packet pickup was in a college union classroom, and our “course” was around the perimeter of the college. No color stuck to me and there were so many signed up, the first people were finishing before the last two heats even started. I feel ripped off as well.
JoeMay 4, 2013 at 9:44 am
I hear ya, Leah. Thanks for reading.
Mehdi N.July 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm
I think that alll those color races and events should hace a logo or something trademarked that says that te race is not chipped timed so that competitive runners of all levels , from elite to 10min/m, do not waste theirmoney
JoeJuly 24, 2013 at 9:58 am
I can get on board with that!
JoeJuly 30, 2013 at 8:09 am
Not a bad idea!
maeApril 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm
Meh. I don’t think color runs are inherently boring or lame. I figured that if some one is elite or competitive comes to a color run, they are coming for the “party” of it or to get their friends into it or to take a break from competition. I think it is more about expectations. On the other hand, the race course sounds really lame. Surely there are safer, prettier places to do it
JoeApril 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm
Agree on all points. Obviously I don’t think it’s an inherently lame idea, otherwise I wouldn’t have signed up!
I ultimately felt like they weren’t upfront about what participants should expect. Looking back, they do warn that it’s not for a competitive person. But a better description noting that it’s mostly walkers and around a giant parking lot would have been appreciated.
Cora CorderoMay 30, 2015 at 6:30 pm
One week before the race, they sent out an email to us that it would be a $5 cash charge to pick up the packet on the day of the race. CASH only. So suspicious.. I emailed the organization and complained because we live too far away to make two trips. They did email back right away and said that the $5 would be waived if I showed them the emailed response. I had no problem at pickup. Most of the stations were out of paint by the time we got to get to them. It was just people hand throwing the powder.. it was not effective. If they didn’t give packs with your packet pickup, then we would have had NO paint on us. This race is a very high fee for low results.