RALEIGH — A haze of purple, pink, green and blue covered thousands of runners crossing the finish line at the inaugural 5K Color Me Rad charity run on Saturday morning in Raleigh. The haze grew thicker throughout the morning, and at times, it looked like someone had dropped napalm on the concourse of the Time Warner Pavilion Amphitheater.
But it was nothing more than a harmless mix of powder and cornstarch, thrown into the air by participants and volunteers, turning white T-shirts into colorful tie-dye arrays.
Color Me Rad, a charity fun run in its first year, drew a crowd of nearly 9,000 people and raised about $25,000 for the Special Olympics of North Carolina. The idea was just to create a 5-kilometer run with a festive atmosphere that would bring in as many first-timers as fitness geeks, Gretchen Willard said.
We try to get people running who normally wouldnt, Willard said. Our focus is definitely on fun.
Shane Crandall, one of the events organizers, said his brother Scott came up with the idea earlier this year.
The Crandalls hail from Orem, Utah, where they observed a local Hare Krishna temple celebrating Holi, a Hindu festival that takes place in the spring.
It is also known as the festival of colors because of the tradition of throwing colored powders and water on fellow celebrants.
Scott Crandall, who wasnt in town for this race, wanted to apply that idea to a charity run, giving it more of a festive atmosphere.
Races are becoming really popular now, Shane Crandall said. (But) everybody does the same old 5K. For the most part, theres not a lot of variation.
Color Me Rads first-year tour includes 35 cities across the U.S. and Canada, but Crandall said they are hoping to expand that number to 80. The organizers charge a registration fee between $30 and $50 and donate proceeds to a local charity in each city.
Crandall and race organizer Wyatt Grow exhorted runners and talked to the crowd from atop a construction lift on the lawn, throwing out color bombs packets of colored corn starch and merchandise.
The crowd down below was mostly young and female.
In my experience, girls like to dress up; they love to take pictures and post them on Facebook, Crandall said. This is the perfect opportunity.
Kate Fairchild, a Cary resident, was one of many girls to dress up in a tutu and tights. Fairchild might be the races target demographic. She had never participated in a 5K run before, and she wanted to ease into it.
Its for a good cause, and its no pressure, she said. You can walk it, you can run it, you can do whatever you want.
It wasnt just the only the women who dressed up. Jay Dawkins and three of his friends, all N.C. State alum, decided to go in 1980s-themed costumed.
Dawkins himself dressed up as Flavor Flav, a member of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, donning a fake dollar-sign chain and a Viking helmet. The helmet wasnt authentic, but it wasnt light, and it didnt look comfortable.
It was a burden I was glad to carry, Dawkins said.
One man stood out for his relative lack of clothing. Greg Woods of Durham completed the race wearing nothing more than a thong and a pair of thin sandals.
The sandals, manufactured by Xero Shoes, resemble shoes worn by ancient Romans. They are designed, according to the companys website, to give wearers the feel of running barefoot.
Woods said the shoes help him with his knee problems. He wore the thong to embarrass his girlfriend, he said.
This seemed like the perfect event to be really silly, and also embarrass her a little bit, he said.
Woods said hed like to see more races that encourage runners not to take themselves too seriously.
Smaller 5Ks tend to be pretty competitive, Woods said. Everybody was having fun. Even people who were tired were laughing and being silly. Thats how I think more races should be.
People from local charity and service organizations volunteered to help the event run smoothly.
Jamie Paysour had the job of spraying runners with a mix of water and colored corn starch. Paysour, who was working on her service hours for the Omega Phi Alpha sorority at N.C. State., said she plans to come back as a participant.
Ive been to a lot of these charity events, and this is the most fun (one) Ive been to, she said. Im definitely doing it next year.