How To Avoid The Fake Color Run Scam

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Wait, did you really intend to pay $50 to dress up in a not-sexy costume and go to an appointed place and hurl powdered paint at people you know and people you don’t know and have a bought-and-paid-for good time while generally moving forward for five kilometers, or in Americanese, 3.1 miles? Because if that’s what you wanted, make sure you went to this website to register. Because that’s the real deal.

If you went to the website for something called the “Color 5 Mile,” and paid your $50, you got scammed. Your money is gone and no one will throw paint on you.


The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning, for the second year in a row, that this scam is afoot. She’s a beaut alright, mostly because people who enter color runs are not actually interested in running, may know little about running and thus, miss obvious red flags, like misstating the length of the run numerous times.

The fake event is called the Color 5 Mile—implying it’s five miles—but event information on the website says the Color Mile 5K (5K is an abbreviation for five kilometers, or 3.1 miles) is “a nearly two mile race.” Directly below that, it describes the course as “5 kilometers (3.1 miles).” Under the FAQ, you’ll be relieved to know that “Color Mile is not difficult at all. Much of the 1+ mile race is fun!”


Another red flag of scammery is the fake Color 5 Mile’s schedule. The front page indicates that “checkin” (scammers are known to have poor punctuation skills) is at 7:30 and the first race “opens,” like a shop or a bar, at 9 a.m. Clicking on Register Now! brings you to this dizzying itinerary:

Day of Event Schedule 7:00 AM-12:00 PM

Volunteer Check In (time depends on assignment) 8:00 AM-10:00 AM 5K Run

Day of Event Registration 8:00 AM-10:00 AM Check In 9:00 AM

5K Run Begins 1:00 PM-1:30 PM

Pre-Ceremony Concert/DJ Set & Warm Up 1:30 PM-2:00 PM

Opening Ceremony 2:00 PM

5K Walk Begins 2:00 PM-4:00 PM

Late Check-In 2:30 PM-4:00 PM

Post Walk/Run Activities

So, Check In (they’re killing me with the lack of continuity) is at 9:00, not 7:30; the 5K run begins between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., not 9:30 a.m.; and it looks like the party’s still going at 4:00 p.m., though the day’s event schedule indicates the festivities will be over at 12:00 p.m. The opening ceremony is at 2:00 p.m., two hours after it may or may not be over! Don’t worry, you can still Check-In until 4.

So, careful reading of the event website, prior experience signing up for a running race (in which you move quickly for five kilometers or five miles or some consistently referenced distance), or prior experience with the passage of time will help you avoid this shameless deception.

Now for the editorializing: While The Color Run is legitimate, in that people will indeed lob paint at you and you will have opportunity for same, there is a painful, awkward contrivance about this brand of fully organized fun that feels fake. Junior high students, marinating in awkwardness, can undertake this sort of small scale malfeasance naturally, with genuine glee. But effortless, joyful assault is one of those primitive, ephemeral phenomena, like an infant’s startle response or acne, that fades with adulthood. When adults try to recreate it, like, color me lame.


Photo: Getty Images