Color-drenched runners, joggers and walkers with babies in strollers ambulated around MetraPark last Saturday while getting blasted with cornstarch and food coloring.
The coloring came from water hoses and off the palms of volunteers who threw it onto each willing participant. Many runners wore costumes, including bright pink tutus, trousers and ties, overalls and funny hats.
Will Strauss, 30, who is from Salt Lake City, Utah, event director of the for-profit corporation that sponsored the run, Color Me Rad, said, “Color Me Rad runs are the gateway drug to running. I think the color distracts people from the running. The everyday person hates running and for a lot of people, this is their first 5K.”
He said he works to attract people who need to run and just need encouragement to get out there and have fun. Most participants bounced along enthusiastically, even whole families and kids in strollers sometimes. Some enthusiasts stopped for a beer break, including Caleb Music, 24, from Gillette, Wyo.
Joining him were his brother Jake Music, 22, and Burton Schilling, also 22 and from Gillette, Wyo., Megan McLean, 21, from Whitehall and Sara Witt, 21, from Columbus.
Caleb Music said, “We are the least musically talented people named Music around.”
Two dogs miserably tolerated the booming rhythmic beat greeting the finishers at the top of the MetraPark parking lot. The ground of the lot was covered in pink, blue and green food coloring mixed with cornstarch. Clouds of color surrounded the runners as they rolled on the ground in the powder and stirred it up with their sprinting feet over the finish line.
One volunteer too busy to say much was 66-year old Bettie Antone from Laurel. She tirelessly threw the powder onto the closest finishers.
Volunteers from the Young Men’s Christian Association amounted to 70 people. Keziah Efta, volunteer coordinator for the Billings YMCA, said, “We probably will get $15,000 to $20,000 from Color Me Rad for the YMCA. I start recruiting in January for this event. This is a good showing. If it weren’t for the YMCA volunteers, we would not be able to have a race.
The event coordinator for MetraPark, Lyon Davis, who has done this work for three years at his current position, said, “It’s got a lot of things other than running – it’s a party. People enjoy coming in costumes. This race is about celebrating life.”
Impressive rows of aqua-green portable toilets lined the lot. People remained until well past 11:30 a.m. Saturday, beaming some extra verve perhaps because of the new hue on their skin. Sara Rehmer, 25, said, “It actually feels kind of awesome – where else do you get to run and get colored and messy and it’s OK?”
Her husband, Kory Rehmer, a firefighter and before that an emergency medical technician with Life Flight, said he came to the race to support his wife. Their friend, also from Helena, Katie Sheehy, a registered nurse employed at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena, said that they all came to Billings to do Color Me Rad and to see the Carroll vs. Rocky football game that afternoon.
Excitement reigned as the disc jockey threw prizes to jumping runners doused in pink, blue and purple. People grabbed at coconuts filled with different colors, also thrown to participants by the DJ. The odors of charred brats and hot dogs from Fuddrucker’s wafted into everyone’s noses. Stacks of green, red and orange T-shirts in clear boxes lined the tables surrounding volunteer-staffed tents.
Mr. Strauss said he had been involved with the same company that created the Dirty Dash, a competition in which runners go through mud. Employed with Color Me Rad since it started two and a half years ago, he has directed almost 90 races. This was his second time in Billings, and he estimated that between 2,800 to 3,000 participants ran.
A runner himself, he said he has run several marathons and that his best five-mile cross-county race time at about age 19 in college was 22 minutes.
He said the race registration fee started at $35, but that it rose to $50 for late registration.