It was about a hundred degrees at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. Thousands of us were crammed in to a carpark next to Wembley Stadium wearing white T-shirts and white head bands, looking for all the world like so many 118 look-a-likes, standing burning on the tarmac, waiting for the apocalypse. Time ticked by and the excited cheers were beginning to be replaced by grumbles and moans. We were waiting to begin the first ever UK Color Run (‘The Happiest 5k on the planet!’) and we were getting annoyed. I’ll be honest, I thought the whole thing was a bust. I would have gone home except it was impossible because we were sandwiched into the centre of a giant multi-fatality crush incident waiting to happen – should a comet hit us or a zombie outbreak occur. I was considering my egress routes when suddenly, there was a surge towards the start chute, and our race began.
Now, I won’t lie, I didn’t run. I hadn’t had enough water and it was too friggin’ hot. My friend Katie and I walked the entire 5k and by the end of it my whole life perspective had changed, and we were singing the praises of this paint-throwing spectacle rather than scowling and moaning.
The race was fairly bog standard up until the first colour zone. We walked round the side of Wembley stadium, trying to pretend the industrial estate we were approaching was an Arizona desert ranch instead of a city truckyard. Some pesky volunteers began clapping at us and shouting ‘come on! You can go faster than that!’ I may have threatened them with violence. Did I mention it was a hundred million degrees?
Then we rounded a corner and there in front of us was a mass of white T-shirts flailing forwards into a mist of pink. It was the most bizarre and wonderful thing I’ve seen in a long time. We looked at each other and belted forwards, emerging several minutes later on the other side, covered in crimson and with actual rose-tinted sunglasses that did indeed give us a much nicer view of the world (although I did stumble into a lamppost because I couldn’t see where I was going). There were volunteers actually throwing the powder paint, but the real beauty came from the colour-carpeted ground and the dust that hung in the air and turned it red. Everything was so happy. Everyone was smiling and the mood of our part of the world had lifted by several degrees. I wish I could explain to you what it felt like but I can’t, you’re going to have to try it for yourself.
There were more colour zones along the way – one for every kilometre. My favourite by far was the yellow zone; a neon haze of sunshine tinted bodies all writhing around in the dust on the floor (the powder guns had run out), scooping it up, throwing it and dancing with arms waving and faces splitting with joy to the music that was blasting out of speakers nearby. We joined them. A bright yellow rave in the searing heat in the middle of the day, and not a one of us under the influence of anything other than the coloured dust that had gone up our noses. It was spectacular. In that few minutes, there was not a molecule of my slightly damaged, prone-to-depression little brain that was anything other than bursting with joyfulness.
And I now firmly believe that all the world’s problems can be solved with bombing each other and the vicinity with…powder paint. Bold statement? You try it and see.
There were more colour raves and a giant festival at the end with a stage, dance music, an industrial sized hose to splash about in front of and free cartons of coconut water that tasted – I kid you not – like actual vomit. We didn’t want to leave and could have danced about under the Wembley arch for days, purple and orange paint smeared across our faces and congealing in the creases of our arms and legs, hands waving above our heads, thousands of pairs of running shoes all skanking and moshing and raving at once. It was badly organised and at a silly time of day for a running event in July, but oh my, it was the best thing ever. Next year we’re all doing it. To raise some money and do good in the world that way. But also to do good for our brains. Because it really, really did. And the best part – no comedown the next day. Just the memory of what it looked like when the beat dropped and a thousand hands chucked clouds of purple powder in the air that rained down on us as we danced.
The Color Run, presented by Dulux is partnered with Stand Up To Cancer. You can still register for the event in Manchester on 21 July, Belfast on 24 August and Brighton on 14 September. Learn more about it here.
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