However, it turns out that our new hometown has their own version, called Color the Hill, with several key differences that made it worth checking out. First, it takes place on the campus of UNC, only a few miles from our front door. (Ease of attending: check) This of course leads to the added perk of not having to get up particularly early for the travel. (Reasonable schedule: check) Next, the race itself was set up to allow groups of runners to leave at staggered start times anywhere between 9:30 and 10:30. (Civilized hour to be engaging in strenuous physical activity: check) Finally, the course they chose--for whatever reason--was only 4 kilometers, rather than the standard 5K. (Easy-peasy workout: check)
So when I told the boys about it, they naturally jumped at the chance to sign up. This time we'd be attending the event as a solid unit, enjoying some valuable family bonding and all that...oh yeah, except for the fact that we still separate when it comes to the actual running, due to our different paces. But at the Start and Finish, we'd stick together...hang out with all the other colorful kooks...and soak up the goofy atmosphere. Also, we gained a member of our little entourage temporarily--a friend's daughter wanted to run, but none of the members of her own family do that sort of thing. So I volunteered to be her...Rainbow Buddy...for the morning's festivities.
Stepping outside on the day of the race to check the weather revealed perfect conditions: slightly cool and brilliantly sunny. Wearing our standard-issue white tee-shirts, armed with the protective eye gear provided by the sponsors (that would be "cheap plastic sunglasses") we made our way to UNC's cross-country trail to join in the pre-race mayhem. Clouds of multicolored dust wafted through the air as giddy participants tried to smear each other into tie-dyed masterpieces even before the starting whistle. (Or rather...a random volunteer yelling "Go"...) Seriously, you picked up an entire palette of hues just by weaving your way through the knots of people...but it didn't take long before the urge to fling your own packets of powder became undeniable. Soon we were fingerpainting one another with all the manic glee normally shown by...I don't know...sugared-up pre-schoolers after several slices of birthday cake...or something.
Eventually there was an actual, you know, race. Due to the lighthearted nature of this event, there's no "timing" or anything crazy like that. And the 11-year old I was accompanying isn't a hard-core runner anyway, so we took it pretty slow and easy. Of course, spread out along the way there are stations where volunteers toss even more of the cornstarch stuff at you, adding to the layers of primary color chaos, gradually turning the whole shebang into a kind of....mobile work of art.
This whole silly undertaking had some unexpected--but very fortunate--repercussions, though. When we reunited back at the central point after we'd all completed our heats, Husband resembled quite the...towering column of...day-glo magnificence. The emcee announced an upcoming contest involving several categories of "Most Colored" runners. At the insistence of his loving, supportive (some might say "sadistic", but wait, it has a happy ending, I promise) posse, Husband made his way forward, to the verrrrry impressive band of neon warriors clustered near the announcer.
In the Adult group, he was selected in the top 3--so far, so good. But in order to choose a winner, it was decreed that there would be...a Dance-Off. Oh. My. Goodness. Now I was feeling totally guilty for pushing my poor spouse into this embarrassing situation. I cringed as he was forced to...shake his groove thing...under the watchful eyes of a hooting crowd of strangers. (I used every ounce of restraint I possess and didn't film it...not even for a second...so at least I was proud of myself for THAT...) In the end, the merciful guy with the mic determined that each of the 3 good sports would receive a prize for their troubles.
What, you might ask, could possibly make up for having to endure this torture? Well, Husband came away with a heavy tote, chock full of books from one of the sponsors...which just happened to be The Princeton Review. Included are such titles as "Paying for College--Without Going Broke", "The Best Value Colleges", "The Best 379 Colleges, 2015" and "If the U Fits--Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted". I'm sorry, but there's really only one thing to say here: SCOOOOOORE! Husband won by virtue of having the oldest child in the bunch--thus the soonest to presumably benefit from this information. (The other 2 ladies have 3-year olds, so they got...coffee mugs...) Husband was so geekily excited by his free-bag-'o-loot that it 100% cancelled out any lingering feelings of mortification. (Whew! I'm off the hook! And I'm tellin' ya, he spent the rest of the day reading selected tidbits of wisdom out loud to us. I sense this is going to be a thing, now...)
After that, there was nothing left to do but snap a few memorable photos..then take our messy selves home for one B-I-G cleanup. (After a quick stop at a nearby gas station convenience store for some cool, refreshing drinks...where our appearance caused much amusement for the clerk on duty...) I'd have to say this was an extremely successful day--there was some entertainment, some exercise, some lovely parting gifts...and apparently some assigned reading to get started on...go, team!