Run or Dye Chicago: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2013 was planned to be the year that I got back into running. I had good intentions to run more last year but in the end result was more like a non-relationship and running version of the Toad the Wet Sprocket song.

It’s hard to rely on my good intentions (to run either outside or at the gym)
When my head’s full of things that I can’t mention (like wanting to do other things, not do anything, or complain about the weather)

I’ve gotten to the point where, while it would be fun, I don’t consider myself a runner runner. I have friends like Jen who I automatically associate with running, blog name or not, (Mom’s Gotta Run) because running is a huge part of her life. Right now, it is starting to become a part of my life and I’m content with that. Plus according to My Fitness Pal, it doesn’t even count as running but rather jogging. Fine with me. As long as I keep moving and don’t feel like I’m about to fly off the treadmill, I’m good with that.

Maybe someday, I’ll sign up for a half marathon with Jess, but for now I’m sticking to the short and slow end. So far I have signed up for two 5ks. One is next month and one was last week.

I got a deal for Chicago’s Run or Dye on Groupon. It was cheap and local. Since I had done a color based 5k last year, I had a general idea of what to expect. The color based runs are quite often advertised as fun runs that are family friendly too so no real pressure to go faster than your desired pace. As long as I remembered sunglasses, spray in conditioner, and a bandana I’d be ready to go.

I was part of a team that had initially planned to jog/run it via a mass reply all messages. The plan slightly changed after the one person transferred out and another took her place. Then it was jog/walk.  Fine with me since my overall plan was to have a good time with friends.  There was no way I was bringing my Garmin out for this one. I’d be attacking it with canned air and Q-tips for way too long post race due to the dust. Stina was running the 5k but we’d still see her either before or after the race.

The actual day of the race was pretty gloomy but the 5k was taking place rain or shine. It was one of those mornings that you would grab a rain jacket or umbrella before you left the house. Even though the race wasn’t too far, we still left a bit early to get checked in.  They had a packet pickup earlier in the week but it was on the northside of Chicago. The race was in the southwest suburbs. This was inconvenient and annoying.  If there was no check-in the day of the race, I would have been angry. I understand that it depends on running stores and sponsors and whatnot but it was still annoying.


The check-in line was decent sized and took about a half hour to get to the actual tables. However, at that point the people checking you in and giving you your stuff (bib, drawstring bag with temporary tattoos & rubber bracelet, and tshirt) were pretty fast.

I wish the corral was as fast. We were in the 9am block of people. Honestly, it didn’t seem to matter. It took us about a HOUR to get out on the course.


Imagine a missing gap between the photos here. Yes, there were even more people.RoDlineE

Stina waited for us for awhile but had another race to run that day. Yes, she signed up for two races on the same day. She made the smart decision to leave Run or Dye after waiting a little bit.

After Stina headed out, we waited in the midst of the white-shirted masses that were starting to grow antsy. Understandable. The really obnoxious thing though was that people clearly didn’t read or didn’t care that you were supposed to start with a clean white shirt.

The color powder started flying.

Some people threw it at themselves. Others at each other. A few threw it up in the air.

I started grumbling and a little more than grumbling. I know this part is fun but so is going through each color zone and adding a new color to your self. My guess is these are new people to the race’s concept. I wasn’t going to start yelling at people for having a good time. The three teenage girls however with their mini moshpit style powder fight however were about to get it. Call me an old lady but you crash into me once, it is an accident. The second time, you get a glare (which was ignored.) The third time I’m going to tell you to knock it off. Luckily, there was no third time.

We finally got closer to the start that was marked by the standard, or at least what I’ve seen, flags and tower with the announcers on it.  They were getting the crowd pumped up and throwing free tshirts and headbands. They had everyone do the wave for the really cool remote controlled video camera helicopter that was flying around. The tower also had the music guest for the race.

Yes, that’s right, a musical guest. It was like back in the day shopping mall concerts but instead of Debbie Gibson or Tiffany, it was Lil Lito who seemed like standard “Chicago” somewhat newbie hip hop/club/stuff I’ve never really had any interest in listening to for the most part. He looked young, though ended up slightly older than I thought seeing him from afar, and there were teenagers in the crowd super excited and yelling when they saw him.  I was totally not his demographic. He tried to get the crowd excited and even played a song he wrote about Run or Dye, but missed the mark for me when he called it a marathon. Good try, kid. - It needs more cowbell.

I definitely would not run a marathon in the parking lot and surrounding area around a soccer stadium. I honestly don’t think I’d run another 5k there either.  There were a lot of turns and switchbacks to make the distance work so the course thought it was part of that Supermodel song by RuPaul

Work, turn to the left
Work, now turn to the right
Work, sashay, shante

Since we weren’t running it, it wasn’t too bad. If I was, it would have been annoying. People slow down at corners. It is just commonplace. We tried our best to stay to the right at follow the faster= left, slower = right concept. It was included in the pre-race info sheet but, like keeping the powder til the end, there were some people who “forgot” to read this as well. We just started calling out “RUNNER!” if there was someone coming up behind us. It worked out pretty well.  There was one guy complaining as he came up behind us on the RIGHT side and one woman who squeezed between my friend and the crowd fence/guard rail. I say guard rail since I’m surprised she didn’t bounce and skid off of it due to there barely being any space.

Yes, that’s right crowd fencing was the edge of the race. It worked pretty well to get everyone through the race while not trapping us on the course. If you needed to step out to use a port-a-potty or catch up with friends it worked. With all the effort to drag those into place, I wish they had made the effort to post the mile markers.  There were none or if there were, we somehow missed them. From my prior 5k experience, the markers were GIANT. Since I was walking, it didn’t make too much of a difference. If I was running sans running watch and wanted to mentally pace myself, I would have been annoyed.

If I had initially planned to run this, I don’t know if I would have fully run it.  The course was part pavement/walkways, part parking lot with varying sizes of gravel, and then the street.
Some of the gravel was ok but some was really awkward. I was in actual running shoes so the traction wasn’t ideal.

The biggest draw of these kinds of races are the color stations.  This is where people throw the color powder at you. The first color station was really weak. I almost went through it without realizing it.  The second was better but I still wanted to be like “Ok, c’mon you can do it! THROW IT!” The later one was better with the people really getting into it.  They were laughing and launching the color at everyone.  One thing that surprised me was that each color station had multiple colors. My prior color based race had specific colors in each station.  Maybe it was to get more powder out with the wonky layout.

After passing through a lackluster finish line that didn’t have much more than a few small banners, we moved into a large crowd that had gathered in the main area.  There was music playing and a stage with some kids dancing around and singing along.  We didn’t hear any specific countdown/throw cues so we threw our color packets at each other, got some great pictures doing so, and headed out.


Cheeseball stance post race

It was a good thing we didn’t wait. The parking lot afterwards was a disaster. There was no   clear rhyme or reason. People were just trying to get to an exit.  I’ve been to tons of concerts and large scale outdoor venues but this was horrible. We were lucky that our friend who had come to watch was the person who was driving. He wasn’t tired and could get us out there as fast and as safely as possible.  Luckily we had also parked near back so our wait time wasn’t over an hour like some people had mentioned on Facebook. The race organizers had posted that they were working on the delays but people were still furious with the situation.


  • Goal of day: Get out and have fun w friends
  • Goal reached: Yes
  • Would I repeat this 5k: Undecided but leaning more towards no. Maybe if it was somewhere else. Location was a major influence on my thoughts of the 5k.
  • Would I repeat any 5k outside Toyota Park: Gravel + any chance of repeating exit with ME driving= NO DEAL! 

2 thoughts on “Run or Dye Chicago: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Sounds like I really didn’t miss much. The Girls on the Run fall 5K is usually held at Toyota Park, but they run the course out through the surrounding neighborhood and the finish it in the stadium. I think the organizers and/or village didn’t want to deal with the color in the streets issue.

    And getting out of the parking lot was a nightmare when it was just me.

    • Not wanting to deal with the color powder totally makes sense.

      Having a neighborhood based course with the start/finish at the stadium sounds like it would be a totally different situation. However, I would definitely have someone drop me off and pick me up a good deal away from it. What is a bit more distance when it gets rid of a potentially stressful situation.

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