I write to offer some friendly (and also cautionary) comments regarding a proposed new road race reported in the March 28 issue of the Current. The “Color Run” is being enthusiastically endorsed by the city council of South Portland for the weekend immediately following the 4th of July holiday. As a longtime competitive runner in Maine, as well as a race director in recent years, I must confess to some misgivings about the merits of this so-called “signature” event that promises to attract some 5,000 runners for a 5K in the dense SMCC neighborhood, despite its Utah-based promoter’s promise to raise huge amounts of money for worthy causes.
I suspect that one aspect of this that makes all the hype seem like a “no-brainer” is the great success of the Beach to Beacon (B2B) 10K, which takes place just a few miles up the road from the color race. But the B2B is a complex and carefully orchestrated event run by professionals who have proven credentials for planning and pulling off a mega-race that enjoys extensive community support and corporate sponsorship. I would be curious to know if any of the local boosters who are so enthusiastic about this race have any experience as runners or race organizers to ask the right questions of the Color Run company, or if they have consulted with any local running groups to assess the pros and cons of such an ambitious enterprise? And frankly, the notion that one rescue unit, 4 EMTs and 3 police officers can adequately handle a crowd of 5,000 runners, hundreds of volunteers and spectators, plus traffic, seems unrealistic.
The Color Run is being touted by an organization “from away” whose primary goal is generating significant profits for itself, and no doubt they will recommend a hefty registration fee to guarantee that profit. Also, one has to be just a bit skeptical about an outfit that feels the need to incorporate a rather bizarre gimmick of flinging colored cornstarch at the competitors along the race route, as if the pristine pleasure of healthy running is not sufficient in and of itself to ensure a good turnout. Maybe those mainly interested in a festive event will find this activity appealing, but my hunch is that many more serious runners will avoid this one entirely. In this regard, a quick perusal of the race calendar for the seven-day period leading up to and following the July 4 holiday lists no fewer than nine other well-established races scheduled within a 25-mile radius of greater Portland likely to attract several thousand runners, many already registered for their favorite one, and unlikely to add another.
I respectfully recommend a more careful appraisal of this well-intended activity before the city fully commits itself to it.