Best of 2013: What it’s like to “dye” running at Fort Henry

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not much changes from year to year at Fort Henry, and for good reason. But 2013 was markedly different as the Fort received a host of upgrades which re-imagined the national historic site, giving tourists and Kingstonians alike even more reason to make the trip up the hill. The Fort’s new Battery Bistro serves as a unique venue for enjoying live music and refreshments while watching the sun set over Kingston’s waterfront.  Further upgrades tweaked their widely-popular Sunset Ceremony with the integration of massive and stunning visuals projected onto the Fort’s storied walls.  Kelly’s exploration of what’s been changing at Fort Henry also included this featured piece on the colour-filled 5K known as Run-or-Dye.  If you missed out on all the action at Fort Henry in 2013,  be sure to put it on your bucket list for Summer 2014!

What it’s like to “dye” running at Fort Henry

Run or Dye, Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario
My friends and I in the starting chute, where the dyeing begins.

Clouds of pink, yellow, orange, and purple are lofted into the air as Top 40 dance songs are blared over a pulsing crowd. Smiling faces are speckled with neon streaks. All manner of silly dress – tutus, goggles, onesies, wedding dresses – are on full technicolour display. Such is the scene of last Saturday’s “Run or Dye” event, Kingston’s inaugural colour run held at Fort Henry.

For the uninitiated, Run or Dye is a for-profit company that hosts a 5K race during which runners are showered with bright colours of powdered dye along the way. It’s inspired by the Hindu festival Holi, which celebrates the arrival of spring. Messy? Yes. Fun? Also yes. Despite torrential downpours that started first thing in the morning and lasted all day, runners, walkers, and dancers alike flocked to the event as early as two hours prior to the 9 a.m. gun time. More than five thousand participants filled the starting chute, ranging in age from mere tots to seniors.

The event encourages absurdity. Not willing to be outdone by the creatively costumed, I was suited up in a hot pink onesie complete with hood and kangaroo pouch, purchased for the devastatingly reasonable price of twenty dollars (holla, Giant Tiger!) Surveying some of the other runners in the chute, I admired full-length white lace gowns, sparkly hot pants, neon ballet skirts, and lots more. Style, in this race, definitely prevails over substance. Runners in the chute gleefully accented strangers’ costumes with rainbow splashes.

The colour run is non-competitive, and so it isn’t timed. The goal is just to have fun, although I had a bit of an ulterior motive. I wouldn’t call myself a competitive runner, but I do have a few half-marathons under my belt and thought a colourful 5K might be a fun way to warm up for the Canadian Army Run halfie (which, incidentally, I ran the day after Run or Dye. Phewf!) Fort Henry’s punishing hills are no joke, though. The race began with a grueling incline from the lower parking area up the Fort’s east side. Many were walking within the first half kilometre as we mounted Kingston’s response to Everest. The masses groaned.

At the first kilometre marker, though, spirits lift when the green dye is thrown upon you from every angle. Race volunteers happily douse you with the eco-friendly powder. A smile or a pose garners a little extra dye attention. After that first kilometre, it’s a very taxing trek up and down the main road, then through the surrounding fields. Pink, purple, and yellow clouds mark each kilometre. Endless rain meant the dye ran down our faces, into our eyes, stained our hands. The grass was slippery and muddy. The camaraderie of it all was exhilarating. Despite the arduous course and horrible weather, I finished the race in one piece. The finishers’ area was a mosh pit of dye and music and generally happy people, soaking wet and mottled in colour. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I would also ensure that I don’t have anywhere important to go afterwards. Four days later, my nails are still stained purple. My feet are still pink from where my shoes got soaked through. It could be worse though. Some of my more Teutonic friends still have Katy Perry-coloured hair.

Kingston’s Run or Dye event will be donating a portion of its proceeds to the Kingston Military Family Resource Centre. For more information about upcoming locations, please visit or visit them on Facebook.

Kelly Reid

Kelly Reid has retired as a contributor to Kingstonist. Kelly was one of our arts and culture contributors. Her column for Kingstonist explored the city's art galleries, as well as live music, theatre and performance art venues.

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