The Color Run comes to N.O.

It isn’t your typical 5K race. Sure, there’s running and walking involved, not to mention a post-race party featuring everything New Orleanians love – music, food and festivity. But the Color Run -- making its New Orleans debut Saturday, Nov. 17, at the New Orleans lakefront -- is less about competition than it is about pure, unadulterated fun.

Dubbed the “Happiest Race on the Planet,” the Color Run is just what the name implies. It is colorful, bold and splashy. Think drip-paint artist Jackson Pollock, and it’s safe to say that this won’t be one of those races that you can’t wait to end.

Here’s how it works: Participants begin the race clad in a perfectly white t-shirt, and at every kilometer, they are plastered with a different color.

“By the end, they look like they fell into a Willy Wonka tie-dyed vat of color goodness,” the Color Run web set states.

The brainchild of Travis Snyder of Salt Lake City, an avid runner and triathlete, the race was in the works for a number of years before making its debut in January of this year in Phoenix. Since then, it has made stops in Seattle, Philadelphia and several other cities, with dozens more – including a return stop in New Orleans on Feb. 9, the Saturday before Mardi Gras – on its schedule.

“He wanted to create a nonthreatening running environment where professional and novice runners could come together and enjoy the purity of the sport,” race spokeswoman Jessica Nixon said of Snyder, an experienced race producer. “Seeing how happy it has made all different kinds of people has been very rewarding.”

The race begins at 9 a.m. on Franklin Avenue near Lake Pontchartrain and follows a route that includes Lakeshore Drive, Leon C. Simon Drive and the University of New Orleans’ East Campus near the Lakefront Arena.

The route features several color stations where volunteers and staff, armed with squeeze bottles filled with dyed corn starch, will spray participants with one of four colors -- yellow, orange, pink or blue. In addition, each racer gets a color packet to throw at the post-race party.

“The best is saved for last, ending the race with a color extravaganza,” Nixon said.

Race officials say the color is 100 percent natural and safe – even edible if some of it accidentally (or perhaps on purpose) lands in your mouth. Although the color will wash out of your clothing, you can preserve the finished product by spraying it with vinegar and ironing it.

Eleven thousand runners of all ages, sizes and fitness levels are expected to participate. As of now, registration is closed, but those still interested can get on a wait list at the Color Run web site (www.thecolorrun.com), or sign up for the Feb. 9 race at City Park.

Although the Color Run is a for-profit venture, with registration fees ranging from $35 to $55, it donates a portion of its proceeds to a local charity. In New Orleans, the Color Run has teamed up with the Arts Council of New Orleans because of its focus on making New Orleans a “flourishing international center for arts and culture.”