At noon on May 4th, 400 participants flooded the natural lands and frolicked through massive rainbow clouds of colored corn starch in the “First Annual Ole Color Run.”
The run continued a theme of colorful campus events following the successful Holi Festival – a celebration of the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil – that took place in the quad three weeks ago. The race was a charity event aimed at helping prevent gang rape in India.
With a $5.00 entry fee, participants received a bag of colored powder. All proceeds from the event will be going to two non-governmental organizations NGOs that work with victims of gender-based violence in India: the Christian Faith Home for Children CFHC and the Red Brigade Lucknow RBL.
The participants gathered behind Tostrud and released an initial flurry of colored powder. Once the white race t-shirts were coated, the runners were off, turning left into the natural lands. There, they encountered the first of fourteen color stations spread throughout the course where professors, students, and families threw fresh colored powder at the runners. The track wound alongside Tostrud and towards the frisbee golf course behind Hoyme, then circled back through Tostrud to explore the opposite end of the natural lands beyond the soccer fields.
However, the term “run” belies the informality of the event. While serious athletes charged to the front of the pack, many participants chose to walk, jog, or improvise other styles of movement.
“Me and another girl just goofed off the whole way – the first ‘k’, we ran backwards, the second one, we skipped, the third, we sped walked. So that was fun,” said Kendra Johnson-Tesch ’15.
“I ran the whole thing backwards, which was kind of fun. Some walkers beat me,” said Andy Switzer ’14.
Although a timer did wait at the finish line for those who wanted to know their race times, many chose instead to dance and stroll through the color stations, stopping to clean off powder before running again. Many participants took photos at the end of the race before they rinsed off.
St. Olaf students Apoorva Pasricha ’14 and Lauren Hagen ’14 organized the run to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault. The event was sponsored by Darshan, SARN, and the Creativity for Community House, along with support from several St. Olaf College academic departments. The organizers were inspired by their experience in India as part of a psychology Interim course with Professor Dana Gross and their work with Madras Christian College in Chennai, India.
CFHC and RBL, the two NGOs who benefited from the race, work to protect and empower Indian women. According to their website, the stated mission of the CFHC is to “support and empower parentless children, deserted women and people below the poverty-line through institutions including orphanages, schools and vocational training units.”
The organization was originally created after a young mother ended up on the doorstep of the group’s founder, Dr. Maida Raja, who persuaded her not to commit suicide despite her dangerous home life. The woman ultimately left her child at the founder’s house, inspiring Dr. Raja to form a nonprofit to provide welfare services for the children of at-risk mothers. Their services include education, rehabilitation resources, awareness programs, and medical services.
RBL takes a different approach to women’s welfare by instructing them in various forms of self defense. While their main tool is free martial arts classes, the group is also known for using educational outlets, such as seminars, demonstrations, and advocacy to spread their message. Their ultimate goal is to set up a sexual assault resource center, which is a rarity in many of the areas where gang rape is prevalent. On their website, RBL states that this resource center will “provide a safe home for victims of sexual violence.”
The event raised over $2,000 dollars to combat gender based violence in India, surpassing its goal for participants by about 100, including 50 Carleton College students.
There has already been clamor for a repeat of the eventnext spring, hopefully signalling the beginning of a yearly tradition for the Ole Color Run.would go “Oh, woah! Your face is blue!” and you joke that you’re from the Blue Man Group. I would do it again” mentioned Johnson-Tesch.
The event surpassed its goal for participants by about 100, including 50 Carleton College students. There has already been clamor for a repeat of the event next spring, hopefully signalling the beginning of a yearly tradition for the Ole Color Run.
Photo Credit: ANDREW WILDER/MANITOU MESSENGER