It was a multicolored party in tennis shoes Saturday on Capitol Mall.
Hues of pink, orange and blue bathed the streets as 13,000 descended on downtown Sacramento for The Color Run. The throngs came with white shirts, ready to turn them rainbow.
This is the second year the capital city has hosted the for-profit race, which is marked by organizers drenching white-shirted runners in colored cornstarch at various points on the course.
At 8:30 a.m., the mall was packed with people dancing to booming music. The crowds stretched from Tower Bridge the start line to the state Capitol.
"I'm just here to have fun," said Shelby Killen, 20, a UC Davis student.
The Color Run is part of a new generation of athletic experiences where the goal isn't to raise money for a charity, but rather to have fun.
"It's a lot crazier than the other races," said Lenore Blaauw, 82, of Rocklin, who was getting ready to join the masses.
When the color started flying, hundreds pulled out their smartphones to snap pictures they would upload to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Entire streets were covered in blue cornstarch. As huge clouds of the colored powder moved through the air, those spraying the starch used masks and bandannas to block out the dust.
"Color Run Sacramento Success!" tweeted Elizabeth Carreiro of Turlock, attaching a picture of herself coated in blue and orange.
Over half of the runners are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to Jessica Nixon, a spokeswoman with The Color Run, which is based in Utah. An overwhelming 70 percent of them are women.
After the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run, attendees boogied on the mall before a concert stage for the after- party. Nearby, parents and other family members watched in awe.
David and Debbie Jeter, who were looking for their 16-year-old daughter a race participant said they were "surprised" by the turnout.
"This generation (millennials) likes to keep it exciting," said David Jeter, 52. "It probably has something to do with their short attention spans."
Some spectators and runners likened the experience to a nightclub. People traveled from as far away as San Jose and Merced to participate in what organizers dub the "Happiest 5K on the Planet."
Of the 35 people The Sacramento Bee interviewed, only two were aware that the race was for-profit. The Color Run does, however, donate a fraction of its revenue to a charity. Still, some were upset to learn the cash was flowing directly into the organizers' pocketbooks.
"It's horrible and sad; I don't think they should be making money," said Jessenia Cardenas, 24, of Ripon, when she learned that her race fees were not going entirely to charity.
Lance Duncan, an associate race director, defended the business model, noting that "most companies are for-profit."
"It's a chance for people to let loose and forget about their usual grind," he said.
Admission to Color Run events typically ranges between $35 and $55 per person, according to Nixon. For Sacramento, the fee is $40, and $55 for last-minute registrations. The event is marketed largely through social media, Duncan said.
Based on those figures, Saturday's race brought in more than $500,000. Its charity partner, Girls on the Run, expects to net up to $14,000, said Amanda Holliday, the nonprofit's board president.
Holliday said Girls on the Run serves 600 girls annually in its after-school programs.
The amount donated is directly pegged to how many volunteers the nonprofit partner can mobilize. Holliday said her organization this year fielded 150 volunteers. Altogether, 300 volunteers worked the for-profit event, with half coming directly from sign-ups on the organizer's website.
The privately held company, which employs 70, began organizing races last January. In 2012, The Color Run hosted 50 events in 49 cities, attracting 600,000 participants, Nixon said. This year, she expects those numbers to rise sharply. The company is planning 120 events within the United States and 50 events abroad, drawing well over 1 million people.
Despite the event's popularity, 2,000 fewer people showed up on Saturday compared with last year. Duncan cited competition from charity races and other copycat "paint races" as factors for the decline. Sacramento hosted a similar race in May called "Color Me Rad."
Kellie Bainbridge, a 33-year-old high school teacher from Lake Almanor, ran with a few of her students. She said the girls gravitated toward the event because of its "catchy and unique name."
But Bainbridge, who said she was aware that the run was for-profit, had one complaint.
"If you pay to run, you want it to go toward a good cause, not into people's pockets," she said.
Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.