Alternatives to the traditional 5K road races and Saturday morning fun runs have been exploding in popularity – from off-road events with obstacles to themed runs involving undergarments or donuts.
One such niche event, the color run, is coming in April to Iowa City – the University of Iowa specifically – with a unique twist.
“We color each campus in its school colors,” said Jared Satkoff, co-founder of Color Your Campus, a fun run start-up based in Philadelphia.
Satkoff and Grant Kamins, both 27, said they decided to launch their own version of the color run on college campuses after seeing the original color run’s success – it became the largest 5K series in the nation in 2012 with more than 600,000 finishers.
Last year, The Color Run hosted more than 170 events in more than 30 countries, and Kamins said Color Your Campus hopes to mirror that success within their targeted population.
“I saw the color runs doing very well but thought they were missing something,” Kamins said. “I decided they were missing out on college students.”
Kamins and Satkoff launched the Color Your Campus website in August and then tested the interest level on Facebook. The UI emerged among the most enthusiastic about hosting an event, earning it the first Color Your Campus run.
“Iowa students are so energetic and fun, and the faculty have been great in working with us and ensuring it’s going to be a huge event,” Satkoff said.
Color runs ask participants to dress in white. At different points along the run, they are doused with a rainbow of colors, finishing the course coated in a kaleidoscope of hues.
The Iowa run will splash participants three times – first in gold, then black, then gold again – with a non-toxic dye that is made from corn starch, according to Satkoff.
The event will begin and end at Hubbard Park, next to the Iowa Memorial Union on campus. Before runners take their marks, DJ Commando – who has been a DJ for Iowa’s Dance Marathon events – will MC a large dance party, Satkoff said.
Participants can run, walk or find some combination through the colorful 5K, and upon finishing they will get a small bag of color to be used as part of a “color cloud.”
“That is when the real fun begins,” Satkoff said. “Every 10 to 15 minutes, when people start arriving back, the DJ will count to 10 and everyone will throw their color in the air. It’s a real sight to see.”
Registration for the April 12 event in Iowa City doesn’t open until Jan. 20, but more than 850 people have said they’re going on Facebook. The national Color Your Campus Facebook page has garnered more than 6,200 “likes” since its launch, and Satkoff said they’re in the process of putting together a 2014 Color Your Campus tour that will bring the event to eight to 10 institutions.
The duo has not yet finalized contracts with any other schools, but Satkoff said they are close to doing that with at least three institutions.
Once the event establishes itself, Satkoff said, they plan to switch up the tour sites annually – although they’re already planning to return to Iowa.
“This year our cap is 5,000 participants,” Satkoff said. “But I think that in Iowa City – because it’s not just for UI students – we could get 10,000 to 15,000 people.”
Satkoff said that even though Color Your Campus closely resembles the original color run, there is no affiliation and there are no legal concerns that the name and concept are too similar. This is not the only color run variant, he said.
“The Color Run has about five to six large competitors out there right now,” he said. “And we are targeting different demographics in different cities.”
Satkoff and Kamins said neither of them are experienced runners who have participated in a lot of races. But they noticed the success of the niche run and thought it was a good business concept.
“These things are very popular,” Kamins said. “We just wanted to put a point and purpose to the color, rather than just random colors.”
The duo has hired a race coordinator out of Ohio who has experience putting on color runs, Satkoff said.
UI freshman Hannah Gordon is among those who plan to participate in the Iowa event in April. She had been looking to participate in a color run and was excited to hear one was coming to her.
“It is a modern way to promote school spirit,” she said. “As a student at the University of Iowa, I know how important it is to feel connected as a student body, and I feel that this movement can bring together people from Iowa City and really promote how much we love the university.”