Last night was very exciting, I was one of hundreds of people who took part in the first ever Color Run Night in London (in fact in Europe). And I had a blast – and learned some useful hints and tricks for anyone else thinking of doing the event.
Chances are, if you run or are interested in fun fitness in any way, you know what the Color Runs are. If not, think running a 5k while people throw powder at you. Normally this is done during the day but, now they’ve started night time runs. I was already interested but one of the big draws for me was also where it was – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – I go past this on the train at least twice every week and think ‘I really need to go an have a nose round there’. After all it was the site of the 2012 Olympics so you can walk round the outside of the stadium and check out the ArcelorMittel tower. There’s also some places to climb, a pretty park and, if I can work out how to get there a nice towpath – heck even the pavement is printed with cool fitnessy stuff. I’m definitely going back in the next few weeks for a proper look round.
Because I didn’t know my way round, I got to the start super early. I’d been offered a media place and so I went and picked up my ‘glow-in-the-dark’ t-shirt and fetching head torch from the PR folk and then loitered. Considering how colourful the daytime events are I was surprised to find the t-shirt was black…but, it all became apparent later. The fetching head torch has a UV mode which makes the t-shirt go glowy. There wasn’t a lot in the start area – stalls selling glow-in-the-dark paint, a few portaloos and so, once people started moving toward the start line I went with them.
Lesson One: I’ve done three powder run events now and I’ve learned the further back you start the less powder the throwers have left when you go past them. I wanted to see what happened if I started as close to the first runners as possible. I was right – if you’re going to do any powder run, start early if you want to get messy.
The downside of starting early was there was a lot of hanging around standing still. I was in the start queue at 7.40 – the race was supposed to start at 8.00 but it didn’t start until 8.30. By this point I was absolutely freezing. This brings me nicely to….
Lesson Two: Part of the fun of the Color Run is that everyone is wearing the same t-shirt, however because the Color Run Night is erm, at night, it’s obviously chillier than during the day. Wear a long sleeved top that you can put under your official t-shirt. I didn’t and was seriously regretting it at this point. I had my running jacket with me, but, it’s a Saucony and for someone who hates spending money on kit, it was relatively expensive and I didn’t want to risk getting it covered in dust.
The last Color Run I did had a very young field…nothing wrong with that, but as a solo runner who isn’t 22 (yes, I know that’s hard to believe but….) you can feel a bit of a lonely old fart when standing in the start chute – I’m not sure why, but the Color Run Night was different. I saw lots of older solo runners or couples and even had a few chats while we were waiting to start. Another interesting thing….very few people were running with headphones, which also made it much friendlier. Also, almost everyone was sporting face paint and/or deely boppers. I think part of the reason was that you were already looking a bit daft wearing a head torch so why not go the whole hog. I hadn’t got any paint – and also had to get the train home at 10pm on a Saturday night alone, so didn’t attempt to scrounge any. I just wore my torch with pride, but I did feel I was missing out.
Lesson Three: Embrace the theme. Buy the paint, buy the flashing glasses, don the psychedelic tutu. And don’t be afraid to chat to people if you are running alone. It’s not a serious event so people are wiling to chat.
At 8.30 we were marched to the official start. All my standing has paid off, I was in the first wave of runners. And I think I overtook 50 percent of them as the cold meant I took off like a greyhound. I wasn’t timing myself and there are no km markers but I’m pretty sure it was the fastest kilometer I’ve ever run. The powder zones are set roughly a kilometer apart and, when I reached the first one, powder was flying everywhere. This was actually a bit of a shock – I’ve never run through a fully functioning powder zone before. Note to self: breathe through your nose.
Lesson Four: The downside of the night run is, it’s harder to protect yourself in the powder. That sounds scary, but it’s only cornstarch – but don’t forget it’s coloured and I have heard of one case of a fellow journo ending up with dyed contact lenses, plus if it gets under your lenses it does aggravate. Normally I wear sunglasses for these events, and, while I had them with me, I wasn’t sure dark lenses at night was a good plan. I did get a bit of a gritty sensation, but nothing too bad and I just bin my lenses at the end of the day anyway – but if you do wear long use lenses, you might want to wear some clear-lensed glasses to cover your eyes. If you’re asthmatic, you might also want to wear something to cover your mouth just so you don’t breathe in too much powder. I’m allergic to dust and my chest did feel a bit tight afterwards.
So, between the powder zones, you run round the back streets of the Olympic complex. This actually probably works well at night because most of it didn’t look hugely scenic but the darkness kind of hid that…the bits that were pretty though were very pretty. You see the tower lit up from loads of different angles and some lovely day glo fountains – plus, a lot of the course is out and back, so, you get to see hundreds of people wearing head torches and face paint coming towards you which is fun. New to this course is also the bubble zone…..this was my favourite. Loads of floating bubbles. Sadly I don’t think there was an official photographer there as I’m pretty sure my face had the same look of joy and wonder as a kid seeing Santa for the first time and that’s one race pic I might actually like to buy. Note to race organisers….someone start at bubble run.
Before I knew it, the race was over and I was in the party area. At this point, you get a packet of day glo powders and some glow-sticks for the big party at the end. By this point though I’d already worked out I wasn’t going to get home until gone 10.30pm so I headed straight to the station.
Lesson Five: This could be the only disappointing bit of the run for some people – part of the Color Run experience is your finish line selfie of you and your mates covered in powder – but of course it’s dark out there, and, that combined with my black outfit meant and I couldn’t get a decent picture. It was only when I got to the station that I realised my legs were covered in pink and blue paint. If getting the finish line photo opportunity is important for you, take a phone/camera with a decent flash (packed carefully away in a bag) or make sure you use your head torch in the blue, UV, mode which activates all the glow in the dark stuff. And join in the Color Throw when you’ll get a full dose of day-glo. Again, your pics will also be better if you follow Lesson three and get your glow on before it starts.
So, all in all I really enjoyed the event. I think the darkness made what could have been a dull course way more fun and I absolutely loved the bubble zone. Even though I didn’t stay, I also think the fact that it’s night might make the end party more fun. Jumping up and down to loud music seems more normal at night! Sadly this is the only Color Run Night event this year, but it’s back next year. As soon as I hear when I’ll tell you all about it.