A cloud of pink, green, blue, and yellow cornstarch covered the Lane Stadium parking lot on Sunday morning, as more than 5,000 people ran in the first ever Color Me Rad 5k to take place in Blacksburg.
Loud pop music and enthusiastic volunteers coaxed runners along the trail that wound through rural part of campus, connecting with the Huckleberry Trail, and ending near the stadium.
"It looks like everyone had a good time and we loved working with the Special Olympics again.” said Gretchen Willard, Public Relations for Color Me Rad.
Color Me Rad is a for-profit organization located in Utah. The company began as a group of friends who decided that running had the reputation of being mundane and wanted to change that for its cause. The group was inspired by the Holi festival in Spanish Fork, Utah, which is based on a Hindu Spring Celebration where people throw perfumed colored powder in the air. The ideas “naturally melded together” and created the Color Me Rad 5k.
“We also hope to get a lot of people involved in fitness who maybe otherwise wouldn’t come out for your typical 5k," said organizer Scott Crandall in a press release. "If you make it about fun instead of about shin splints, you’re more likely to want to give running a shot.”
The much-anticipated event sold out days before the race and was the biggest event per capita that Color Me Rad has held thus far.
“We knew that the people were looking forward to it. If you consider the population of Blacksburg and how many people signed up, it was one of our biggest," Willard said. "So we were excited because there was so much support. It looks like everyone had a good time and we loved working with the Special Olympics again.”
The race benefitted the Special Olympics — a charity that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of sports for children and adults with disabilities — with a portion of the final proceeds and registration fee donated to the organization.
“I decided to do it because it looked like a lot of fun," said Sarah Richardson, a sophomore life sciences major. "The fact that (the proceeds) went to charity made me feel like my money was going to good use.”
Each wave was started by a member of Blacksburg’s Special Olympic athletes.
“We felt like Color Me Rad was a really great partner for us. When we heard about it we thought it was a perfect match for our mission because of the fact that it's all inclusive and it’s untimed,” said Katie Botha, Senior Director of Development and Communications for Special Olympics in Virginia.
“We first partnered with Color Me Rad in Richmond and we raised nearly $30,000."
During registration, runners could sign up in teams or as individuals. Hundreds of participants left the start line at the Lane Stadium Parking Lot in heats every 5-10 minutes starting at 10 a.m. Runners were bombed with color at various stages of the race after they left the starting line.
“I signed up for the race with my family," Richardson said. "As a runner my favorite part of the race is that it wasn’t timed. You could run at any pace you wanted so you could enjoy the full effect of the color being thrown at you.”
Despite the overall excitement for the race, some registered participants we’re unable to attend the race due to the previous night’s Halloween festivities.
“I overslept (the morning of the race). I was disappointed because it seemed like a lot of fun. I would register again,“ said Aaron Barnett, a freshman biological sciences major.
Color Me Rad continues on to Phoenix, Ariz. and St. George, Nev. in the coming weeks. For those who missed the Blacksburg race, Color Me Rad will return to the area in spring with a race in Greensboro, N.C. in March and another race in Richmond, Va. in April.