By the end of the first Buffalo edition of the international Color Run 5K at the waterfront, Ruth Tagg’s hair, forehead and heart-shaped sunglasses were dusted in pink and orange powder that, like magic, had motivated her and the estimated crowd of 10,000 to get out and run together at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
“I was like, ‘Dude, what is that? Hey, I never did a 5K ever. Maybe I can do this,’ ” Tagg said of the time months ago when she read about the event on Facebook.
As the internationally touring, noncompetitive and for-profit run wound to a close at Canalside on Saturday, people seemed in no rush to leave. The crowd, full of 20-somethings, had the vibe of a college quad celebration. It was also diverse.
There were parents pushing toddlers in strollers and carrying children on their shoulders. Quite a few, including at least one man, wore tutus. Some had on sparkly wigs. Everyone was dappled in varying strengths of purple, green, yellow and blue. Clouds of orange cornstarch drifted up toward the Skyway as some bounced and danced to DJ music booming from the stage while others lounged on the lawn posted with signs that said, “Feel Good. Be Happy. Run Faster.”
“This whole kind of sector of themed fun runs is pretty popular,” said Kiley Newbold, a Color Run staff member who had come from Salt Lake City on Thursday to help set up. There are 5Ks with party atmospheres in the evenings and that even feature chases by zombies.
The point, said Newbold, is to encourage people to run in a nonthreatening, noncompetitive atmosphere. Runners and walkers in the 5K were not timed. The man who was the first to cross the finish line didn’t get a trophy.
Instead, Newbold doled out generous high fives as people made it down Marine Drive and around the corner to the Hanover Street finish.
“I’ve probably given 300 to 500 ... Maybe 1,000,” he said. “I’m a runner and enjoy making people happy.”
“It’s not about the race,” he said. “It’s about the fun. You can go as fast or as slow as you want.”
Color Run started in January last year and sponsored 50 runs nationwide. This year 120 are planned, including stops this month in Boise, Idaho; Cincinnati; Salt Lake City; and Ottawa, Ont. Thirty more are planned internationally, including one in Singapore this weekend.
The company contributes some of its profits to the Global Poverty Project. A portion of the Buffalo revenue will also be given to “Shoes on Students,” a project by the Fleet Feet running store to give running shoes to young people in need. So far this year, Color Run has donated about $400,000 to $500,000 to charity, Newbold said.
Registering cost varied from about $40 to $55, depending on how far in advance participants signed up. Runners were encouraged to follow two rules: Wear white and “finish plastered in color.”
The Color Run formula includes a “color station” at each kilometer. As they passed each marker, runners were doused by people wielding spray bottles of pink, then yellow and orange and blue. At the end, people were out with all colors, and runners had their own packets of pigmented cornstarch to toss.
“We all started out with white shirts and ended up looking like a rainbow,” said Sarah Jansen as she walked to her car looking pastel in a light dusting of yellow, orange and blue.
It had been fun.
“You can’t be mad when you’re getting doused with color,” said her friend Emily Kawa, who brought along her daughter Allie, 6, for her first 5K. “We all blend in today.”
Molly Bunting, of Rochester, was another in the stream of people heading down Scott Street towards the parking lots. “This was the most fun 5K ever,” said Bunting, who had a dark purple hue from head to shoulders. “I’m going to hang out like this all day.”