Color Run brings family together

Participation in inaugural Color Run 5K adds to healing for family's grief
Noel Hastings nears the finish line of the Color Run 5K Saturday morning at the Expo. During the Color Run, participants get blasted with colored powder made of dyed, food-grade cornstarch every kilometer of the run.Julia Moore

When Amanda Shaffer's mom heard that Medford was hosting its first edition of the international Color Run 5K, which was held Saturday on the Bear Creek Greenway, she and her daughter signed up without hesitation, weeks ago.

Last year, when Portland hosted the paint race for the first time, Shaffer and her sister Cara Clark drove from Southern Oregon with their mom, Kathleen Wilson of Trail, who was forced to sit out because she was still recovering from a heart attack, Clark remembers.

"She was really looking forward to this year," said Clark.

Tragically, Wilson was killed 10 days before the Color Run's plumes of purple, blue, green and yellow rose into the Rogue Valley air. Wilson, a Knife River Corp. employee, was killed on the job Aug. 14 when a truck sideswiped a trailer on Interstate 5 near where she was standing.

Clark and Shaffer, along with their sisters Ami Clark and Sarah Barber and other family members and friends, walked the route in memory of Wilson, who was 60.

"We're doing OK ... it's just so sad right now," said Cara Clark, who like the other family members wore a white T-shirt commemorating their mother, grandmother and friend.

"My mom was really, really loved in this community. She grew up in the Rogue Valley and was a big part of her community. She was very well thought of," Cara said. "We really did this to celebrate my mom's life."

If anything can be taken from the loss, Cara Clark said, it's that road work is not safe work and drivers need to pay full attention to the road at all times and slow down around roadside workers.

Cara said Color Run organizers asked the crowd for a moment of silence in memory her mom.

About 3,000 people walked, ran or wheelchaired through the untimed route, which started and ended at the Expo in Central Point, said race director Marc Miller.

Participants left the starting line in waves of 100 over the course of 45 minutes, then they gathered for a colorful — and cornstarchy — celebration in the Expo parking lot after the event.

During the Color Run, participants get blasted with colored powder — made of dyed, food-grade cornstarch — every kilometer of the run.

It takes a few tons of cornstarch to cover an event as big as Medford, Miller said.

Since the for-profit event company launched in January 2012, it has grown from 50 events and 600,000 participants to 100 events and more than a million participants, according to its website.

The Color Run raised more than $600,000 for charities fighting to end extreme poverty around the world last year and expects to dole out more than $1 million this year, its website states.

The organization also partners with charities from the communities it visits, the website states.

"They make it a lot of fun for people ... it's very family-friendly," said 44-year-old Laura Garrett, of White City, who pushed 21/2-year-old Zoey in a stroller along most of the route.

Molli Calhoun, 17, of Talent, was also getting pushed through the route, but in a wheelchair, and she was caked with colorful cornstarch.

"It's builds up on me," she said, laughing.

The South Medford High School senior volleyball player injured her Achilles tendon after signing up for the Color Run with her mom, but was determined to take part anyway.

Karinn Calhoun, 45, was doing the pushing.

"It sucks to push ... but we had to do it."

The pair said they'll be back to full health for next year's run.

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.


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