Color Run is 'about experience, not charity'

SINGAPORE - The founder of a wacky event where runners are doused from head to toe in coloured cornstarch has denied claims he deceived people into thinking it was for charity.

Color Run founder Travis Snyder, 35, rubbished the online allegations, calling them the "unfounded" rants of a "crazy person".

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, the self-proclaimed "Captain of Fun" said it was never a secret that his event is held for profit and its charity element is but a means to give back to the community.

The Color Run - which has taken place in countries including the United States, Australia and China - flagged off in Singapore on Saturday on its first South-east Asian stop.

Touted as the "Happiest 5k on the Planet", it is a non-competitive, untimed event in which runners in white are drenched in coloured cornstarch at each kilometre, so they finish plastered in various colours.

However, it seems not everyone is feeling the happiness.

In a recent anonymous article making the rounds online, Mr Snyder is accused of raking in profits from what was billed as a charity event.

In Singapore, meanwhile, the $50-a-ticket run has provoked complaints about a lack of organisation ahead of its South-east Asian debut.

For example, queues to collect race packs lasted as long as five hours due to a "technical glitch".

Last Friday, Mr Snyder told The Sunday Times: "There was never a charity focus on the run, which has always been about the experience." The father of three boys, who is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, urged Singaporeans to show understanding for the hiccups so far.

"One of our biggest tasks is to adapt quickly," he added. "When you enter a new market, not everything will go right instantly."

He said the lack of facilities such as baggage deposits - another major gripe of Singaporeans - was in line with other Color Runs around the world.

"The spirit of the race is not just about finishing and going to your towel and change of clothes, but also going back with this badge of honour."

At $50, the 5km run's registration fee is nearly as high as that for much longer races such as the upcoming $58 Army Half Marathon.

Despite this, all of the tickets were apparently snapped up within three hours.

Mr Snyder said the event's prices are pegged to "a global benchmark", adding that The Color Run emphasises a "social lifestyle experience", and should not be compared with endurance races.

"The fact that tickets at $50 each sold out in three hours here shows that we could have made it $100 too," he said. "But it would be too cost-prohibitive for the demographic we're looking at, such as students and families."

The American studies and business graduate was once addicted to triathlons, and was "obsessed with getting faster and faster and faster".

He ran his first Iron Man triathlon at 19 and completed as many as 20 endurance races a year during his early 20s.

"It was very excitingto challenge yourself and to see what the human body can do," he told The Sunday Times.

Then, in 2005, he suffered a serious respiratory infection that left him breathless even when walking down a flight of stairs. The illness - which he described as like a rubber band snapping - prompted him to move into event management.

With a keen eye for business, he noticed that there were no endurance races targeted at novice runners.

But obstacle challenges in which people got covered in mud were popular in the US at the time - as were parties where students ended up plastered in paint.

Mr Snyder merged the two concepts, and The Color Run was born.

The first took place in Arizona in January 2012, and about 200 have since been held around the world.

The oldest runner taking part in this weekend's two-day event is 73, while the youngest is just three.

Some 700 people have also signed up as volunteers, said Mr Robbie Henchman, senior vice-president of event organiser IMG Asia Pacific.

One dollar per runner, or a total of $16,000, will be donated to Project Happy Feet, which helps underprivileged youth.

"We may have grown to this scale, but we are not out of touch with sentiments on the ground," said Mr Snyder.

He added that he reads "every online comment on social media", and remains confident that runners will leave the event with smiles on their faces.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.