The Color Run vs. Color Vibe

It’s time for the results of our good-natured color throwdown!

Remember back in the spring when we told you I would run several color-themed 5k races in western New York this summer? Ah yes, we’re going back a few months.

The Color Run and Color Vibe both graciously offered me entries to run each event. Although the color was theirs, all opinions are my own.

I enjoyed both events, but let me say its rather tricky to compare two colorful 5k races that I ran in different cities and in different weather conditions.

You may recall that when I ran the Color Vibe back in April, the sky opened up on the runners. It hailed, it snowed and it was darn windy. As a result, few stuck around for the after party. (Was there one? I don’t actually know.)

after4yes, that’s snow (Color Vibe)

Last weekend, I headed to Buffalo, NY with my friend and colleague Tina for The Color Run and Tina’s first-ever 5k.

I blogged specifically about Saturday’s race on my work blog. (Click HERE to read)

tina blueThe blue color zone along Lake Erie (The Color Run)

So let’s try a comparison breakdown of the two races:


Both events touted thousands of runners (8,000 or so for the Color Vibe and 10,000 for The Color Run, according to race organizers.) Both figures seemed a bit inflated, but I’d certainly agree that thousands of people took part in each event. Let’s just say both races were crowded, but it was never overwhelming. Race organizers knew how to move the crowd.

At the Color Vibe, the first group of runners didn’t begin until about 10-15 minutes after the appointed race start time, which on a normal day wasn’t a big deal. But the temps had dropped to the 30s and the skies were dark, Plus there was confusion about the start time, so we actually waited about 45 minutes for the race to begin.

colorfunLindsay, Deb and Charlotte running through campus (Color Vibe)

In comparison, The Color Run started at its appointed start time, though it took Tina and me an extra 20 or so minutes to reach the start area after the the first runners set off. (We actually watched the first folks finish!)

waldoA sea of white shirts. Can you spot me? (The Color Run)

Round 1 goes to The Color Run

Color Zones: At both races, we ran through four color zones.

Color Vibe participants were doused with color packets right out of the gate. I loved that idea – get runners with a burst of color right from the start! Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for it, so I basically missed the first of four color zones. (My fault, not theirs.)

pinkThink pink! (The Color Run)

The Color Run seemed to have more volunteers throwing powered color on participants, so it was hard for anyone to get past a zone without a hint of color.

That said, in any color race, ASK the throwers to hit you with color if you want to be covered. They will oblige.

If you want minimal color, try to zip past and dodge the throwers. Stay in the middle, where other runners act as a color buffer.

Round 2 is a draw

The course: Obviously this will vary greatly from race to race. My suggestion for all future color event participants is to pay attention to the 3.1-mile course you will be running.

The Color Vibe was entirely housed on the campus of a local community college. It’s a smart move because its self-contained and doesn’t require race organizers to close roads and divert traffic. That said, the route includes a large amount of parking lots… which also means less event parking.

The Color Run’s route was a refreshing surprise to me. You guessed it, I didn’t check out the course before the event because I knew I’d be walking much of it. The 5k course started in Buffalo’s Canalside Park, next to the First Niagara Center and followed some downtown roads and lakeside roads, into a marina along Lake Erie and back.

colorrun2Along Lake Erie (The Color Run)

Because of its location, The Color Run route seemed far more picturesque.

Round 3 winner: The Color Run

Race swag: Entry to the two races are pretty much the same. $45 for the Color Vibe and $50 for The Color Run.

With the Color Vibe entry, I received a race shirt (which I wore for the run), one color packet, sunglasses and Boston bracelets, a thoughtful gesture by race organizers as we ran several days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Color Run entry included a race shirt (again, I wore it), a race headband, a color packet and some stickers.

Both events sold a number of other products. The Color Run organizers repeatedly threw swag such as race socks and bags into the crowd.

Round 4 winner: Color Vibe

After party: Both events hosted pre-race and post-race parties, which included music, dancing and a celebratory atmosphere.

Because of the wintry weather at the Color Vibe, most participants ran for their cars and shelter after finishing the course. Few people stuck around to sing and dance in the snow and hail. (Gee? Why?) and most volunteers apparently abandoned their post-race posts. I heard there was a photo booth, but never found it. I spotted bottles of water in a pile, though no one was handing them out.

I never saw a big-post race color throw take place by the stage. Instead, participants doused each other with packets of color at or near the finish line. We still had fun, but couldn’t help but wonder if I’d missed something.

after2Our own color throw (Color Vibe)

The Color Run’s after-party was a huge event. The weather was perfect, thousands of people danced to the music and we watched three separate color tosses take place in the 30 minutes after we finished our race.

20130820-143026.jpgA color throw at the Buffalo after-party (The Color Run)

Volunteers passed out Kind bars and offered a water bottle for thirsty runners.

Round 5 winner: The Color Run

colorizedI’m an oompaloompa (The Color Run)

Both events were a blast, though different. All of my running partners were a joy! And I love how color events are untimed races, geared toward beginners. The events aren’t about winning, but the joy of running.

But overall, the top winner was THE COLOR RUN. Congrats to the Happiest 5K on the Planet!

What Color event is your top choice? What stood out to you to make that event better than its competitors? Tell us in the comments!

Hail and color everywhere!

You never know what sort of weather to expect in upstate New York.

Friday was a spring day, with a high of 74 as the sun was shining. But by Saturday morning, we felt the chill as temps dropped to the upper 30s and hail pelted us between falling flakes.

We knew what we were getting into living in Rochester, so we headed to the Color Vibe 5K race bright and early, prepared not to let the wintry weather chill our day.

Our group, like many, donned the official race shirt for the mid-morning run. It was white and well, when else were we going to wear it? We lined up about 30 minutes before race time, huddling for warmth. Many in the corral grew bored, ripped open their color packets and started a color war.

I was technicolor before we even started moving.  What fun!


Carnage of some impatient runners

Soon enough, the race was underway. Our group of seven split in half and I ran along with Charlotte, Lindsay and Deb. Less than a half-mile into the run, hail started pelting us as we ran. The whole crowd groaned.

But alas, a color station was ahead. Once we were coated in green, everything seemed more springlike!


Volunteers throw green corn starch powder on passing runners

Our race was on the local community college campus. Parking lots were aplenty, so we spent much of the run winding through lots and campus roads as we chatted. We were also pleased to see so many people out, despite the weather. We saw many kids running, some racers in costume (Batman and Superman passed us by) and several color infused strollers.


Lindsay, Deb and Charlotte

Since no mile markers were posted and most of my group skipped wearing watches for the untimed 3.1-mile race, Deb kept track of our mileage. She also shared that info with other runners who were itching to know how much further to the finish.

As we ran, high winds carried the color powder high into the air. It was quite the sight.

Then the snow returned, followed by the hail. (Ouch)


Snow. sigh.

After we were doused in yellow and blue, we rounded the last turn to the finish.

Because many people stopped at the finish to toss their remaining color powder packets, we had to stop and walk about 50 or so yards into the finish line. That was a bit disappointing, as my favorite part of any race is a feeling of accomplishment as you finish.

But that said, we pummeled each other with color powder at the finish!


Here, the girls douse me in color!


From left: Sara, Charlotte, Deb, me, Lindsay, Amanda and Thea

Amanda, one brilliant runner in our group, offered up an idea to protect her iPhone from the color powder. She put her phone inside a plastic ziploc bag. Genius! Unlike my phone, which was a technicolor horror and lost 2 months off it’s life, hers was well protected through the madness.

We also loved that Color Vibe partners with a local charity for the event. In Rochester, it raised awareness for the YMCA of Greater Rochester.

Entry into the Color Vibe included a white T-shirt, one color packet, sunglasses and of course our races bibs. We were also given Boston bracelets, a thoughtful gesture by race organizers as we ran several days after Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.


Have you ever taken part in an non-traditional race? Do you like untimed events? Please share your experiences  in the comments.