Friends Chelsea Dover and Kristen Ford participated in the Color Me Rad race Saturday at the Appalachian Fairgrounds. (Jennifer Sprouse/Johnson City Press)
Even though the Appalachian Fair has come and gone for the year, people dressed in white T-shirts, all-white outfits and a few extra costume pieces invaded the fairgrounds Saturday as the Color Me Rad 5K race came to town.
Upon entering the fairgrounds around 9 a.m., the white shirts and costumes slowly took on other colors as colored cornstarch spontaneously filled the grounds while race preparations were underway.
“It’s pretty much the happiest place on earth, no exaggeration,” Anissa Bishop said while walking around with her friends Courtney Berry and Jillian Madison.
A color-run veteran, Bishop said she’s participated in Knoxville, and was very excited to learn that one was scheduled for the fairgrounds.
“It’s a good atmosphere altogether. Everybody’s happy,” she said.
Selena Payne and her husband, Bo, both dressed in white shirts, were standing around at the fairgrounds Saturday, as they, like many, were waiting to line up for the official sendoff.
“We participate in a lot of races in the community with ... We Run Events and (the) different ones that they host,” Payne said.
Payne said she first learned about the colorful race on Facebook and when she found out the event was coming to the fairgrounds, she jumped at the opportunity to run. Payne said she was also excited to learn the proceeds were going toward The Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House, a charity she has had a special connection with for a while.
“When my daughter was 2 years old, she had to have a heart surgery and I was very young and ... it was a lot of expense. We had to travel to Jackson, Miss.,” Payne said. “They actually put up my whole family there to ... stay, so we could be ... close to the hospital with her and never leave her side. It really meant a lot to me and I was very grateful.”
As the first groups left the starting line, others — having either finished the race or waiting around to get started — hung out just on the outside of the starting line in a color pit, as Color Me Rad volunteers sprayed participants with pink-, orange-, green- and yellow-colored cornstarch. Representatives from the Ronald McDonald House were also scattered throughout the fairgrounds passing out red and white water bottles.
When runners completed the 3.1-mile course, they could also get their picture taken by photographers in the designated photo area, as well as take pictures against Color Me Rad stand-ups throughout the grounds.
Finishing her race with a hug from her race partner, Chelsea Dover, Kristen Ford was ecstatic about her first 5K race experience.
“I set a goal to run a 5K back in ... March and I just really wanted to do it. I’ve never done it before. I’m trying to get more fit,” Ford said.
Ford and Dover, both dental hygiene students at East Tennessee State University, said they did a lot of flat-land training for the race, but said Saturday’s course was a bit hilly.
“When we got out here, it was a lot different,” Ford said. “There were lots of hills, in fact, there was this one hill that I thought I might die and have to tap out. I just told myself ‘It’s just one hill. Just do it.’ It was pretty hard.”
After a successful first race, Ford said she plans on running another one, and said the color runs, like Color Me Rad, are good places for anyone to start running.
“They encourage you to take time, enjoy yourself and just enjoy being here with other people who want to be in the 5K,” Ford said. “(Color runs) encourage way more people to get out and be active and be involved in something that is fun.”
A Color Me Rad news release said the race, inspired by the Holi Festival of India, will be held in more than 90 cities across the United States and Canada this year.
For more information about Color Me Rad races, visit www.colormerad.com or the organization’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/colormerad5k.