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Posted on Thu. Mar. 27, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Mix fitness and fun in Fort Wayne with a colorful 5K

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What: Color Vibe run, which benefits Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northeast Indiana.

When: 9 a.m. April 5

Where: Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.

Cost: $45 before race, $50 at race if not sold out

Information: www.thecolorvibe.com/fortwayne.php#

What: Color Run, which benefits Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana

When: 8 a.m. April 26

Where: Parkview Field, 1301 Ewing St.

Cost: $40 before Tuesday, $45 until the day of the race. $35 before Tuesday, $40 until the day of the race for teams of four people or more.

Information: www.thecolorrun.com/fort-wayne/2014-04-26/

What: Neon Vibe

When: May 10

Where: Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.

Cost: $45 before race, $50 at race if not sold out

Information: https://theneonvibe.webconnex.com/ftwayne

What: Color Me Rad, which benefits Special Olympics Indiana

When: 9 a.m. June 21

Where: Auburn Auction Park, 5540 N. DeKalb County Road 11-A, Auburn

Cost: $40 before April 25, $45 before May 30, $50 day of race if not sold out

Information: www.colormerad.com/race/fort-wayne

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Neon blue, orange, pink, yellow and green fall from the sky, shoot out of cannons and spray out of leaf blowers. Runners pass colored checkpoints as race organizers shout encouraging words to keep even the most novice runners moving.

That is what it's like to participate in a color run.

The race

Color 5ks are storming the nation with colorful hues of neon cornstarch and charity partners that keep the runners sprinting to the start line.

Fort Wayne will host four different races this spring and summer, including the Color Vibe 5K, the Color Run, the Neon Vibe and Color Me Rad.

The races are a noncompetitive, untimed 5K in which participants are splashed with colored powders, made of cornstarch, at every kilometer.

Color Me Rad spokesperson Gretchen Willard said the races mix fun and fitness for a comfortable environment, especially for newbies.

“About 50 percent of people that run in Color Me Rad are running their first 5K, and it's something that isn't competitive and it's not about what time you get or getting a metal, it's about having fun,” Willard said.

During the races, the first heat tends to include the people looking for a challenge or wanting to run the entire route. Then the organizers began to release the rest of the runners in organized heats.

The number of heats depend on the size of the race. So if you want to race, be early for the first heat. If you're going for a little fun, wait until the later heat.

Once the runners are unleashed, they will trek on a clearly marked route that directs them through a series of distance markers that include a coloring station. As runners pass through, they are sprayed with color and words of encouragement and support from the cheering crowd.

As you finish the race, that's when the real party begins. These are not just races, but events and maybe even dance parties.

Following the race, an emcee plays music, amps up the crowd and continues to spray more color on the sweat-soaked participants.

“When people think about a competitive run, people get some anxiety, but what we want to do is make this more than a run, it's an event," Willard said. "We have high-energy music and fun emcees. They really like to encourage crowd involvement and giveaways. After the race is our big celebration; we consider that the prize for finishing. That element is as important as the race.”

The popularity

So why are so many people attending to these novelty runs? It's a combination of many factors, the biggest being that a majority of participants aren't active runners. These events are attracting thousands who wouldn't dream of signing up for their local 10K.

“We see people of all ages, and there's a real social aspect to it. It doesn't matter if you're a runner or not. For people doing their first 5K, it's a great gateway to running. It takes training, and it's not easy to run your first 5K, but once people do it they get the confidence that they can participant in other runs,” Willard said.

There are at least 16 nontraditional running series now in the U.S., according to Running USA, with many expanding overseas. More are expected this year, too.

After attracting 6,000 people to its first event in January 2012, The Color Run series quickly took off. Sixty events in 2012 drew about 600,000 people. This year's 100 events include runs in Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.

The charity

While the companies that host the color runs are national, each different race partners with a different local charity.

The Color Vibe race will be partnering with the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northeast Indiana this year. MDA spokesperson Alison Eckert said this partnership is not only a great opportunity to try something new and to explore the benefits of fitness, but also to ensure participant's charity funds are staying local.

“Many of the people we serve lost those abilities (to run), and we want to make sure we get the word out about these opportunities to keep yourself healthy and strong," Eckert said. "The funds we raise in our office in Fort Wayne are raised money for the 31 counties in northern Indiana, and all of the funds stay local.

"We know a lot of people, when they are looking to participate or donate, like to know the funds being raised support local people, and they do,” Eckert said.

No matter if the motivation is for charity, for a challenge or for some fun, the color run 5Ks offer participants a chance to explore fitness in a fun, supportive and colorful atmosphere.

jgoldsborough@news-sentinel.com


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