About six weeks before the Minnesota State Fair comes to town, giving fair goers everything from deep fried cheese to salt water taffy to 44 ounce Coca-Cola for a few bucks, the fair grounds play host to a different thrill seeker -- the runner. Over 68,000 runners congregated to the fair grounds to partake in what has been dubbed the "Happiest 5K on the planet," a.k.a. The Color Run.
For those who aren't runner lingo savvy, "5K" stands for five kilometers. Each kilometer is just over .6 miles, so the whole race equates to 3.1 miles. Organizers give each runner a white shirt and headband to wear to the race. Some runners choose to color their shirt, while some opt to wear a different shirt to keep their Color Run shirt clean -- either option is okay. Color stations are set up at each kilometer where volunteers spray and throw color. Some may even attempt a colorful hug or high five. Remember, on this day, it's acceptable to get comfortable with strangers. This year's color stations were blue, orange, yellow, and pink with a bonanza of color at the post race party at the finish line. The race concludes at the Grand Stand where runners can enjoy music, participate in competitions to win Color Run gear and enjoy some refreshments. Water and granola bars are free of charge, while cheese curds, hot dogs, and beer do come with a charge.
For those still not sold on the idea, consider this -- unlike many 5K races, no running skill is necessary for The Color Run. There are no grueling training regiments to follow, no hard weeks of logging your miles and working on your pace. While The Color Run offers plenty of opportunity to run, many choose, instead, to walk the 3 mile course, simply taking in the experience. Water stations are positioned at the 1.5 mile marker so your thirst can be quenched mid-race.
During the post race party, organizers on stage have 5K finishers participate in what's called a color throw. People pack as closely into the stage as possible, tear open a little packet of colored powder given to them before the race, and on "Go!" everyone throws their packets into the air. It's definitely an experience runners will want to try multiple times, both inside the mob throwing the color, and outside to watch the colors fly -- pictures are encouraged, of course. One note, if you do bring a camera or phone, it's best to put it in a plastic bag. The powder is a fiend at finding every nook and crevice in your phone and can be annoying to try to get out.
Whether a seasoned runner, or new to the sport, The Color Run 5K is an amazing experience. It's non-stop high energy fun and even before you leave you'll be asking yourself, "Can I come back next year?" The 2014 race is pretty far down the road, but keep it in mind for next summer and prepare to strap on the running shoes, grab a friend, and join 68,000 others at the happiest 5K on the planet, The Color Run.
Photos by: Tyler King