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Undercolor operation

Fundraising revelers run a rainbow gantlet at Spokane County Raceway

A pink fog hovers over the Spokane County Raceway in Airway Heights as hundreds of runners gather near the end of the racetrack. An emcee counts down as the crowd rustles.

“Five, four, three, two, one …”

Suddenly, the air is an explosion of color. Purple, pink, blue, green and orange all shoot into the air as runners and organizers of Saturday morning’s Color Me Rad 5k Fun Run throw “color bombs” into the air. The dyed cornstarch cakes onto runners’ clothes and skin in rainbows.

Runners clad in white cheered as the colors stained their clothes.

Event coordinator Matt Ward and volunteers ran through the crowd, spraying pressurized cornstarch from a fire extinguisher.

“It’s just a goofy, fun experience and an excuse to act ridiculous,” Ward said. “And document it. And brag about it.”

And most importantly, he added, “It gives you great pictures for Facebook.”

Women in tutus, children toddling after their parents and even a few on crutches left the track laughing and covered with color.

Kelly Emtman, of Spokane, brought his children to the event. It was the first 5K for Zachary, 6, Samuel, 8, and Sophia, 14. When Sophia heard how many of her friends were doing the run, she knew she had to go.

“It was awesome,” shouted Samuel with a fist pump, his baggy white T-shirt stained with color.

Ward called the fun run a “gateway drug” to running 5Ks. About 6,000 people ran in Saturday’s sold-out race, about half of whom had never run a 5K before, he said.

The race was inspired by the Holi Festival in India, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

Across India, Hindus celebrate by throwing colored powder into the air. Ward said his business partner spent several months in India and saw the festival firsthand.

“For 30 days straight, you can’t come back from anywhere without being colored,” Ward said.

Part of the proceeds from Color Me Rad supported Peak 7 Adventures, a charity organization that takes underprivileged youth on outdoor adventures.

Ward estimated the run raised about $30,000 for the organization.

Tyler McGuffin, a volunteer with Peak 7, danced in a unicorn mask at the racetrack as music pumped in the background. He was handing out color bombs to runners.

Peak 7 is entirely funded by donations, McGuffin said, so events like Color Me Rad make a significant impact on their ability to operate.

“They’re awesome experiences with kids who otherwise wouldn’t have that experience,” McGuffin said.

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