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What's Your Reason to Run

by Melissa Brunner

The Topeka area running community is a generous group, constantly lacing up their shoes and/or volunteering for runs and walks to benefit various organizations. Even people who might not regularly train are more than willing to hit the roads and trails to benefit a good cause. When you could combine the activity with the fun of bright colors being thrown at you, what's not to love, right?

Such was the case with the Color Vibe 5K that took over Heartland Park Saturday morning. Similarly, the Color Run visits Lawrence later this summer. Last month's Runner's World looked at these fun, theme-based runs as one of the fastest-growing trends in community running. They're usually non-competitive, encouraging families and friends to simply get active. I agree, that's great.

On its web site, the Color Vibe also said it chooses a charity partner to receive a portion of the proceeds from its events. For the Topeka event, up until race day, the web page said it was still evaluating who that partner would be. Saturday, we learned LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center would benefit - a great organization assisting child victims with their needs.

We contacted LifeHouse on Monday to see how much of a donation they would receive, given the great success of the run. They told reporter Ariana Cohen that they would receive $1 from each entry. They told Ariana they were thrilled to receive the support, since they're a small organization with small resources on which to draw.

Do the math, though - Color Vibe organizers said they had 2500 runners. The advance entry fee for most was $40 ($50 on race day). At 2500 times 40, that's $100,000. Do you feel $1 from each $40 entry fee is enough?

A Color Vibe representative told Ariana people don't realize the hidden expenses in staging such a run. He specifically mentioned the expense of shipping the "color" to the event site. The "color" is dyed cornmeal, thrown at the runners by volunteers or strewn on the ground so people can roll through it. It could be argued people are paying for the experience. After all, this was more than your average run. Plus, since the charity wasn't known in advance, one could say the beneficiary isn't what attracted participation.

The question is, since the event billed itself as having a charity partner, was there an expectation the Color Vibe would throw a little more green the charity's way? Or did people think their entry fee was going to stage the event, so it really didn't matter to them? It was an entertainment expense, just like going to a movie or eating at a restaurant provides income to the people providing the service or product.

When I posed the question on my Facebook page, H.R. Cook, who manages the Expocentre, pointed out a potential downside is that many people budget a certain amount of money to do a certain number of events like this per year, so people might have chosen this one and decided to opt out of another, which would ultimately take money away from other charities.

Like anything else, the moral would seem to be buyer beware. If you're looking for a fun, entertaining experience to get you, your family and your friends active - go for it. If your main priority is to help a cause, check out the event before you buy in.

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