We followed them.
A small family to the right of us wore kilts with their plaid colored running shoes. We passed another group of women wearing shock-pink Afro wigs, geometric Kiss-like designs painted on their faces. We neared the expansive parking lot that was the gathering place near the start line of our race.
A larger group of women, wearing white t-shirts emblazoned with Bridezillas on the front, adjusted flowing veils that cascaded down the back, past their blue shorts.
A DJ on a large flatbed amped up his patter, yelling into the mike, "Are you ready to RUUMMMMBLLLEE?" as a Zumba group took the stage and danced to a wild salsa beat. Other runners massaged and stretched muscles while the color packets of vibrantly dyed corn starch, issued to each runner, were already being opened and thrown high into the air, marking runners and spectators alike with a rainbow of shades.
A group of guys, probably in their early 20's, unabashedly hopped and jumped in their white underwear, their hairless chests proclaiming in strong black letters they were the Tidy Whiteys.
A small cluster of people, some I knew, had collected in a semi-circle around a woman wearing a beautiful white wedding dress. She continued speaking as I approached, and looked to be a model for one of the sponsoring vendors. Just as I came to a stop, she pulled up the bottom of her lace and silk gown and revealed bright red running shoes.
She explained, "No, I'm running just like this. I was married for eight years, we had two kids, and then he cheated on me and left us. So I'm running in my wedding dress today!" She punched her fist into the air. Some of the color bombs had already marred the pristine whiteness of the dress, leaving it looking like a tie dyed creation from the 60's.
The 6,200 people amassed near the start line, awaiting the wave they were assigned to run in, stood in anticipation.
My group and I readied ourselves.
Once we hit our strides, our group stretched out and eventually broke off as we each had to navigate the congested running lanes. Trying to not focus too much on the sparkling ocean immediately to our left, I worked instead to keep up my pace and move around and in between those who were running slower.
The rush of adrenaline was undeniable and I checked my timer. I knew I probably should slow down a bit and settled into an easy rhythm. I could see the first color station where clouds of pink puffed up into the air like smoke from a volcano. As I got closer, the pink became deeper and obscured my vision, even as I held my breath while volunteers pelted us all with the intense fuchsia powder.
(This is not me, but this is what it looked like in the color lanes.)
We passed T-heads where boats were moored and tourists walking along the sea wall stopped and gaped as we headed towards the next color station. There we were bombed with green, and then onto a third, where yellow was the hue.
I coughed to clear my lungs from the cornstarch as we hit the halfway point and a policeman directing traffic around us dropped his jaw as two of the Tidy Whitey brigade raced past him.
My lungs worked to pull in more oxygen as we approached the two mile mark I jumped up on a sidewalk to clear a larger group of people wearing corporate polos who laughed and joked together as they jogged.
The next color stations were manned with people armed with sprayers and liquid color striped us, first pink, then blue and a darker shade of emerald green. The sun was fully alert now and I broke a sweat. I repeatedly took off my sunglasses to clear them of the powder that permeated everything.
At the three mile mark, something long and black immediately in front of me in the road startled me. I thought perhaps it was a wounded cat, but to my great relief it was just a disacrded gorilla wig.
The finish line loomed and we all quickened our step, peals of laughter breaking out. Spectators gathered just beyond the finish line clapped and shouted as we crashed our way through and funneled to the water stations.
(Again, not me, but people everywhere enjoyed the color.)
An older woman, lean with short cropped hair, pushed through the finish line and into the arms of a stooped man with wispy white hair, holding himself upright with a cane. He embraced her, the color from her shirt staining his.
The scorned bride in the now ruined gown raised her water bottle and tapped it with others.
As I looked for my other team members and let the cool water slide down my throat, I moved back to the finish line. One woman, barely visible, walked her way around the final turn. Probably over 400 pounds, she breathed heavily, her hair plastered to her head with sweat. The crowd of spectators picked up their shouts of encouragement and she shuffled her feet faster, eventually breaking into a jog just before the finish line. Just past it and utterly spent, she dropped to her knees with her chest heaving while her friends surrounded her, but she sported a smile so large it threatened to split her face. She gasped out between breaths, "I did it I did it I did it!"
Whether we came to exercise or exorcise, to fit in or stand out, to prove something to others or just to ourselves, we all came to run.
(This is me after I'd already shaken myself off and wiped my face a few times.)