Color the Hill 4K Race Report (2016)

For the first run in my Racing Past 40 series, I decided to take my two older kids to a color run. I have never done one of these before, and the kids had expressed some interest after seeing some of their after-school counselors use the colored dust thrown at these events as a part of a good-bye celebration.

After looking around, I decided on the Color the Hill 4K in Chapel Hill. Aside from how it lined up with my race calendar, it seemed like more of a local event (some color runs are organized by companies that specialize in them), kid friendly, and the shorter distance would be a good test for Monkey and Cottontail (not their real names) for their first “official” race.

In case this helps, here are some of our impressions from the experience.


The participant information the organizers sent out encourages you to park at the Dean Dome and take shuttle busses to the start. These seemed to run pretty consistently throughout the morning. There is some parking at Finley, but it consists of two small lots. We arrived about one hour before the start and had no trouble finding a space, though our little lot filled shortly after we got there. Some people were able to park on the grass on the side of the road, but there isn’t much else for a half mile in either direction.


There is a set of trailer bathrooms on the fields setup for the athletes who use it as a practice facility. We didn’t need to use them, but I didn’t see long lines forming, either.


The course starts on Finley practice fields near UNC’s golf course and follows parts of the UNC cross country course up to Glenwood Elementary and back.  It had been raining a lot in the past week, so both the fields and the trail were swampy and/or muddy. I often had to walk to navigate mud or swampy grass, while my daughter floated along on top of both and passed me giggling on several occasions. The course was mostly flat, with only one noticeable hill towards the beginning.

On the course you pass through color stations where volunteers throw or squirt different colors of dust on you as you pass through (pink, orange, blue, purple, green). The course looped back on itself a few times, so we went through some stations more than once.  We got more color at stations where we passed through on our own, less at stations where we passed through as part of a larger group.

The organizers had volunteers along the course at key points to provide directions. They had released runners in heats every fifteen minutes and we were in the first of these; this may have made it easier for us to follow the course than than for those in later heats as more people crossed paths on the return loop.

Both of my kids and I enjoyed this race. Monkey ran by himself and finished well ahead of us. I ran with Cottontail, but she only stopped to walk a few times and didn’t complain.

Race Swag

Registered adults received a t-shirt (cotton, not tech), pair of sunglasses, and bag of the color dust. Kids just got the sunglasses and the bag of color dust.

You could buy extra bags of color dust for $4, and I did this for the kids. I don’t know that the extras were necessary, though, especially since they decided to pour one down my back. You could also buy extra t-shirts (mostly with the kids in mind) before the race for $10, though they didn’t have sizes small enough for Monkey and Cottontail (I also got an email the day after the race offering extra t-shirts for $5).

The race bag included a Great Clips coupon, the race bib, and on occasion safety pins (one of our bags had four, one two, and one none). The registration people were happy to provide extra pins if needed.

Post Race Food

There weren’t any post-race food or water stations. It was a short race, but it got warm and humid and most of the participants were younger kids who probably don’t run that much that often. We eventually found a water cooler but it was sort of set aside by the gazebo in the center of the fields.

They had a Hawaiian Shaved Ice vendor and a food truck offering burgers, fries, and grilled cheese.  I got the kids shaved ice, which seemed to dry up any post-race complaining.

Lessons Learned

Here are a couple of things I wish I knew before running:

-Change shirts afterwards. Sitting on towels will help prevent getting color on the seats of your car, but not the seatbelt.

-The color dust is like sand; it finds a way into everything. Organizers said to protect your phone and thing with Ziploc bags and they were right. My glasses have a slight ring of purple dust and my iPhone case has a permanent pink hue.

-The purple dust was the hardest to wash off. I felt like a grape for awhile, even after the shower.

-You can park at the fields and avoid the shuttle, but waiting until an hour before is probably about the limit for this.

-I don’t think I would buy the extra color packets again. One was enough for the kids and they could use mine as well.

-The mud on the course was fun to a point, but it got old after awhile. They were also doing some construction that left water pipes strewn all along the sides of some of the trails. Neither of these are things the organizers could control.

Overall Takeaways

This was my first color run, so I don’t have much to compare it to. It was kid friendly, which along with the weather maybe suppressed some of the party atmosphere you might expect.  The color dust was interesting, but I think the kids got more out of that than I did.

For me, the most enjoyable part was running with my kids and watching them realize they had free reign to make a mess. Cottontail started making small smudges on her shirt, gradually moving up to full hand prints. Monkey was happy to collect as many colors as he could, and to slide in the mud.

The race experience was low-key but fun and well organized. If you’re thinking about trying a color run with smaller kids it’s a good event to start with.


One thought on “Color the Hill 4K Race Report (2016)”

  1. This race was more your speed than mine (pun intended)! I’m glad you and kids got to share the experience and thankful you’re the kind of dad who doesn’t mind being pelted with color dust for his kids’ enjoyment.

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