Color Run Not Coming to Boston

The fun 5K race had plans to be in the Boston area in July but that has been canceled.

Color Run photo via Facebook

Color Run photo via Facebook

We were excited to see the Color Run on the cover of the June 2013 issue of Runner’s World magazine and even more excited to sign up for the July race that was originally scheduled to be held along the Merrimack River in Amesbury. The 5K race, which is not timed, bills itself as “Happiest 5K on the Planet” and really looks like a lot of fun. Officials say that more than 60 percent of Color Run participants have never run a 5K before, so it is perfect for beginners and children. You have to wear all white, and then as you run along the course, you pass through “Color Zones” where you are doused with color. It’s not paint, really, it’s food-grade corn starch and claims to be natural and safe, although their website says, the color will “mostly” come out of your clothes. Not like you’d seriously keep the clothes anyway.

Color runners going through the 'Color Zone' in Fort Lauderdale. Photo via Facebook.

Color runners going through the ‘Color Zone’ in Fort Lauderdale. Photo via Facebook.

So when we noticed that you could register for races in October, but not Boston’s in July, we were curious. We emailed the Color Run and received this response:

Hi Melissa,

Thank you for your email.  Since the Boston Marathon Tragedy….the

city of Boston is not approving any applications for running events

(at least at the time being.)  To help alleviate the HUGE need for our

event in the Boston area….we have TWO options that will open to the

public on May 15th.

New Hampshire – Sept 28th – 80 miles north of the heart of Boston

Providence, RI – Oct 20th – 50 miles south of the heart of Boston

Please get on our VIP list and we will contact you as any information

becomes available for your city!



Something about this did not seem right. Boston is a runner’s city. I can’t imagine that the City of Boston would be turning down permits, not only for races in general but for fun events that can bring the community together. So I called the Mayor’s Office and spoke to Press Secretary Dot Joyce, who assured me that this is an outright lie. “It is absolutely not true,” she says. In fact, Joyce is working on approving a new permit for a Memorial Day race as I type this.

Kids at the Color Run in Fort Lauderdale. Photo via Facebook.

Kids at the Color Run in Fort Lauderdale. Photo via Facebook.

So why would Color Run officials use the Boston Marathon tragedy as an excuse for canceling the Boston race? If they couldn’t get permits for some reason (the Boston Marathon tragedy is absolutely not a reason for races not getting permits), they should be honest about it. Or if they canceled for another reason, why use the marathon as an excuse? All of us here in Boston have taken the marathon tragedy personally. It’s hard to not get choked up about it almost a month later. But for growing companies like the Color Run (they have big name sponsors like Chevrolet) to use our city’s tragedy as an excuse for not getting the ball rolling on something is appalling.

I’m hopeful that this is a big misunderstanding and that the representative who wrote to me was misinformed. I have left a few messages and emails for the Color Run’s press office, and if they ever get back to me, I will update this post. If this is a he said/she said between the Color Run and the Mayor’s Office, at this point, my money is on the Mayor’s Office. They were very prompt with their reply and seemed to be as annoyed about this as I am.

Updated 5:47 p.m.: We just spoke to Eric King who is the Color Run’s race director. He said that although their website lists the July 2013 race in Amesbury, that is listed incorrectly and that was not the proposed location for the 2013 race. He also said that they would love to come to the Boston area, but that their permit was in fact denied. He would not comment on what town denied the permit though, out of respect, because he doesn’t want to throw stones, but says that it was NOT Boston. He says that his customer service rep that sent me the email was misinformed and that not only was it not the City of Boston, but that it was his opinion that it was denied due to the marathon events. They will continue to try to get into the Boston area. He is sending me a statement that I will post on Monday. In the meantime, if you want to get your Color Run on, you can sign up for the Providence or New Hampshire events on their website.

  • Alison Hession

    There’s also this company – Their Boston race is sold out but they have Providence, too.

    • Melissa

      Thanks for the info Alison!

      • Poppa Karen

        Melissa checkout the Syracuse event link above and comments for specifics. If this deal is shady, it’s only because of the intended lack of transparency Thanks for your interest

        • Melissa

          Thanks, I’ll check it out.

          • Chatty Girl

            Both Color Run and Color Me Rad (as well as others) are set up the same way. Transparency is not their strong point. It is starting to come out in the media how shady their business model is.

          • PayAttentionToDetail

            Don’t group them all together because of one article. Many, many, many events have a ‘charity component’ with varying amounts of money that go to the charity. NONE of these events claim to be a charity, but claim that portions of the proceeds go to charity. Even the Komen Race for the Cure only has a small portion that goes to actual charity/research

          • DStatMan

            The Koman Race is 100% nonprofit, please get your facts straight. All the of the money goes to a charity, unlike close to 0% for these for profit races.

  • Hans van Lingen

    Am I missing something here? I’m not familiar with the process of organizing an event like this, but if the race was originally scheduled to be held along the Merrimack River in Amesbury, why are they submitting an application in Boston? Wouldn’t you submit the application with the town of Amesbury for that?

    • Melissa

      While Amesbury is in the Greater Boston area, the email we received from the Color Run people said that they applied through the City of Boston. I included that the race was “scheduled” for Amesbury because that is what the Color Run website said, but that the location was subject to change. We have been talking with them throughout he day and will update the post as the facts come in.

  • Hùng Pham

    The headline says “Color Run Not Coming To Boston,” yet, it was never coming to Boston. It was going to be in Amesbury. Permits would be from Amesbury, not Boston.

    As someone who organizes events – for charity, even – I can say that the permitting process in Boston isn’t easy. It’s a bit convoluted. For the amount of events that happen, and probably want to happen in Boston, it seems like the permitting for one department doesn’t really ‘talk’ with each other (e.g. you get an event permit and are told you *might* need other ones, but they can’t tell you which ones you *might* need based on the application you provide…)

    Additionally, from what I have been told from the permitting office is that many (charity) events are grandfathered in, and they are not accepting new applications due to the amount of traffic into the city and the complaints of those who live in the city that there are “too many events.” We weren’t able to hold a walk at the Hatchshell, for example. Don’t know if for-profit or races are different than charity walks/events, but I do know that it’s not an easy process.

    It IS easier to plan large events outside of Boston for a number of reasons… access, parking, space, less ‘3rd parties.” If it’s a road race (or walk), you’re talking about road closures, etc. so it does become a bit of a beast. Sometimes it works best to find a large area that is self contained – which you’re seeing a lot of ‘fun’ 5k’s doing: Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac, etc. – to keep things simpler. The less entities you involve, the easier the process is!

    • Melissa

      Actually nothing was ever scheduled for sure. They were hoping for Amesbury as they said through the website, but the email we received from them said the application was through the City of Boston. We have followed up for comment and they are getting back to us. Regardless of city, the point is that without fact, they blamed the marathon for not getting their permit, where as we were told that is not the case. I was just told that the race director will be commenting to us on Monday. Thank you for your comment.

  • Janine

    I believe they went with NH on 9/28.

    • Melissa

      Yes, they will be in NH and in Providence. I just spoke to the race director, who clarified many things, including that their website was wrong and it was never schedule for Amesbury this year. I will be updating the post with their statement. Thanks for commenting Janine!

  • Tiffany

    I wonder if they were denied permit because the experience was so awful last year! I would never support them again after my encounter. They were dishonest on so many occasions and looks like they still are. 1st of all, the run was not a 5K, more like 2.8 miles or so. (2.) Organizers justified the brutal 3-hour wait for a shuttle back to the parking lot was due to a “fatal” accident that caused “several casualties” on the hwy. I found out the next day, there was no such accident. (3.) For $50 registration and $10 parking, you didn’t get much bang for your buck. You didn’t even get cold water. You got disgusting warm water after your run. On top of that they refuse to release info about how much they actually donate to the local charity of choice. Never again… I really regretted this experience.

    • Poppa Karen

      Thanks for your comments. We’ve been researching the event in Syracuse and have made some crazy discoveries relative to the organization. You can catch the first US expose at
      Our big issue is the pretense that this is a fund raiser. In essence they pay a non profit to supply volunteers and then accept contributions above registration fees and count them as a contribution. And so in essence the organization makes no contribution. We are also concerned that municipalities are charging non profit fees to organizations that grossed over $18 million last year. … Our folks had the same logistic complaints.

      • PayAttentionToDetail

        Again – this article is about an entirely different run… 2 different events/companies!

  • Poppa Karen
    • PayAttentionToDetail

      This article is about a copycat run called Color Me Rad… they do everything they can to copy/imitate the other paint events.

  • Poppa Karen

    Sounds like Amesbury might not want to be fooled twice

  • Poppa Karen

    There is a color run franchise operation that seems to be headquartered in the Utah, Idaho area. So far we’ve identified 3 operations with those addresses. There appears to be no online franchise marketing info and so the assumption is that franchises are marketed thru an affinity group or social networks. While there are at least 5 or 6 different names, I suspect they are all different flavors of the same franchise since they are copycatted to the extreme. In most cases the relationship between the beneficiary charity and the franchise is one of pay for performance with promotional and staffing objectives. Charity shills allow the event to move around the country with limited staff, transportation costs and hotel expense. Lehigh University is the only institution that has negotiated a transparent philanthropic arrangement
    Suspect they are running so many events because the shelf life of the event may be limited by true copycats and the truth about pay for performance charity. These guys are pulling millions out of local economies.

  • Bailey Miche Rhys

    Google Alaska race Color me Rad is blocked from cities that know it’s a scam. Color me Rad just left Edmonton. What a sh!tshow. They create kaos for all city and event pieces. I believe this is a major component in the profit model. Towns don’t realize they’ve been scammed till the see how much it cost to service the event and field all of the complaints. They have violated pretty much every law for an event. $45.000 grand richer for a 2 day event our city paid the tab for in police and traffic CAN”T BE BAD

    • Bailey Miche Rhys

      450.000 grand richer