We live southeast of Sierra Vista in southern Cochise County, Arizona, but had never heard of the Run or Dye organization. Thus, imagine my curiosity this morning (February 15, 2014) when I saw thousands (probably only hundreds, but it seemed a lot) of tie dyed runners and walkers moving enthusiastically, mostly but not exclusively in a northerly direction, clogging the next-to-Highway 92 terrain. Every one of the participants in whatever this was sported massive body paint–which turned out to be “eco-friendly powder” that made them look like overly athletic refuges from Woodstock.
Well. Obviously, this had to be checked out. I had to hit the ATM at Wells Fargo anyway, and the main party was powered up in a wide area just the other side of the mall turnoff. Good thing my Canon PowerShot camera was riding in its usual spot at my left hip. Bad thing the Panasonic camcorder was home in its carry bag, hanging from a nail on the wall.
This was too freaking weird for words.
Breast cancer research support? Maybe; there was a lot of bright pink out there. But no, blue was in evidence, too, and even, if the eye could be trusted, a bit of orange here and there.
Rainbow coalition, maybe? Gay pride?
No. Not that, either. As I’d come to find out, it was nothing more than a 5K run with a gimmick. An online advertising blurb puts it this way:
What is Run or Dye?
Run or Dye is the world’s most colorful fun run!
Participating in Run or Dye sends an important message: that you’re all about living life in full color! At our colorful event, you’ll get blasted with safe, eco-friendly, powdered dye…turning you into a technicolor canvas of fun. Plus, there’s a huge party afterward, where you “Dye the Sky” with the free dye packet your receive. The result? Run or Dye is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll love.
Here are our rules to dye by..
1. Don’t Worry, Dye Happy! Run or Dye is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a triathlete or a recovering couch potato…7 or 70…a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. Run or Dye is all about celebrating YOU just the way you are!
2. You Are Your Own Canvas. Wear what you want. Light colors will show off all that awesome dye, or come in a crazy costume — a thrift store tux, leopard print pajamas, or an old wedding dress. No matter what your wearing, our Dye Crew will turn you into a colorful sight to behold!
3. Tell Your Friends! Remember: friends don’t let friends dye alone! So tell everyone you know and bring a group to the most colorful fun run that’s ever hit your city!
The psychology of the thing blew me away. I hate the word “fun”. Look at any online dating site; you’ll find the girls who say they “just want to have fun” are party types, looking for clubs and recreational chemicals that’ll get you tossed in jail anywhere but in Colorado. Fun is for people who ignore politics while the nation slides into tyranny. Sense of humor, good; fun bad. When disgusted individuals tell me, “You’re no fun!”, I take it as a compliment.
But this mob was definitely having fun. There were smiles everywhere, even when I aimed the camera at the smilers.
At one point, backing away from the action and exploring the Sears parking lot, I came across a reminder. My reason for being in town: To pick up a refill of the prescription muscle relaxant that keeps my wife mobile. Without it, she literally cannot walk; her muscles seize up, complete with abundant agony, and she becomes wheelchair bound.
The reminder came in the form of a bumper sticker stuck in a car window. “HELL YES IT HURTS”, the sign said. Time to wrap up this little Run or Dye side venture. The psychology of folks who think running five kilometers looking like survivors of a spray paint shootout is never going to be comprehensible to me. No use pretending otherwise.
One thing became clear: There were commercial aspects to this “fun run”. Run or Dye had store tents, selling whatever sorts of merchandise–I didn’t bother to see what was being offered. Area martial arts instructors were on hand, some in uniform, with at least one nice, big mat the kids were loving. This was good. I began to get a little less cranky, uplifted a touch despite myself by all the smiles which, of course, one simply must return in kind, twinkle eyes and all. Kids having fun, that I can dig. One well-dyed youngster, suffering from MS or some such severe disability, was pushed in a conveyance by his equally colorized Dad. If the promoters of this shindig could sell the idea of fun with one hand while picking the participants’ pockets with the other, that was okay in my book. Like a carnival. Test your strength, watch the shell game, pitch the penny.
Successful commercialism, I do not hate.
But I was curious about one thing. I’d asked half a dozen participants if some of the proceeds went to charities or anything like that. They’d all said no, it was all just for fun.
I didn’t let them see me gagging at that. Instead, I slipped around the back of the big black Run or Dye business trailer. The back door was wide open. A fellow stepped into the doorway as I was snapping shots of the whiteboard that covered the inside of the wide door, which was slung open for all to see at the moment.
He didn’t like me and my camera, and I didn’t like him. Oh, we were both courteous enough, and if asked, he’d most likely assure you he has no idea what I’m talking about…but I’m still pretty sure each of us thought the other was a jerk.
The idea of me taking his picture really didn’t sit well with him, so I won’t post the photo I did get. It was a public event, I count as the press, and there’s no way he could do much about it if I posted it, but there’s no need–and I didn’t dislike him that much.
He did provide one key nugget of information. “We do work with charities; they get some of the proceeds,” he told me. “Here, it’s the…I’m still not sure you say ‘Huachuca’.”
It’s pronounced Wah-choo-kah, accent on the middle syllable, and he got it right. He stated that part of the proceeds would be going to the Fort Huachuca Community Spouses Club and assured me that the runordye.com website had all that information.
Which it did not. By the time I got online a couple of hours ago, the Sierra Vista event had already been put in the record books and erased from Run or Dye’s online calendar. That being the case, if anyone affiliated with the Fort Huachuca Community Spouses Club could confirm the validity of the gentleman’s claim, this writer would appreciate it. Not doubting the man, you understand, just going by President Reagan’s old maxim: Trust but verify.
My crusty old curmudgeon carapace finally cracked clean through at the very end of the festivities. Everything was being packed up, getting ready to move on. Most of the runners and partiers had already pulled up stakes…and the remaining kids of all ages were suddenly free to dive into the layers of dye powder left over in the dye boxes, grabbing great double handfuls of the stuff and throwing it all over anybody and everybody within reach with obvious glee.
Now, that really did look like fun. I couldn’t even hate the word. Grinned with my mouth closed, though, just in case; there was a lot of that powder flying around. One lady–not dyed up–had a big, beautiful camera wrapped almost entirely in loose, clear plastic to protect its delicate parts from the colored particles. Smart lady.
There were, of course, a few standout individuals the camera couldn’t resist.
When I told the fellow in the trailer that I “didn’t like fun”, he shot right back: “You’re having fun now!”
Dang. Busted! Gotta fight back. “Fun, no. Joy is another matter.”
He was willing to go with that. And I did wrap up the photo shoot with one last, special picture. A gal heading for her car, packing a Sears shopping bag, saw me aiming at her. Without breaking stride, she turned her head to face the camera, put up a hand to shade her eyes, and smiled big.
I have to admit, she looks like she’s enjoying herself. Or having fun. Whatever.