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Some downtown churches not amused by 5k fun run's timing

By: SUZANNE EVANS suzanne.evans@gazette.com
June 28, 2013 Updated: July 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm
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A fun run planned for downtown Colorado Springs in September is not eliciting a lot of smiles from the leaders of a handful of churches in the area, and they're pushing the city to do something about it.

The Color Run - a 5k event that takes place in cities nationwide and bills itself as Happiest 5k on the Planet - is tentatively set for the morning of Sept. 15, a Sunday. The route hits parts of Cascade Avenue, Nevada Avenue and Tejon Street, and church leaders worry that the thousands of runners who are drenched in colorful paint every kilometer of the run could disrupt the congregations of six downtown churches.

"If you consider that those six churches comprise 2,000 or more citizens of Colorado Springs who are attempting to access their places of worship while this event is going on, it seems like a disaster waiting to happen," said Benjamin Broadbent, lead minister of the First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs.

"People rely on the street parking, they need to be crossing streets," he said.

The city of Colorado Springs and the event organizer plan to hire additional police to help direct traffic during the event. But Broadbent and other church officials who have been emailing city officials with their concerns have pushed for the run to be held later in the day, after church lets out, or to take another route, possibly through Monument Valley Park.

"This event as conceived will hurt the downtown churches, and given the number of 'older folks' who attend worship in all the churches, to force them to weave through runners and potentially get splashed with 'color' is an embarrassment and a liability to the city," said Chuck Blaisdell, Senior Pastor for First Christian Church.

However, the Color Run is not set in stone, said Donna Nelson, economic vitality specialist with the city. People get involved too early and think the plans are final when they are not, she said. In fact, the Color Run was planned originally for a Saturday morning. It was then changed to Sunday afternoon, and later changed again to Sunday morning.

Even the location could change, she said.

"People think that's final but it's not. It's in process," Nelson said. "The event may not happen at all, or it may happen in a completely different location."

Nelson met with Mayor Steve Bach about the issue on Thursday.

"He is adamant that we absolutely don't want to be disrespectful to any church, nor do we want to put parishioners out so that they can't get to their church," she said.

The application for a permit was due last month, and a meeting with the parties that are involved will take place in a few weeks.

Louis Wills, race director for the Color Run who will be directing the Colorado Springs event, said he is willing to work with the churches to find a solution.

"We're still in the works and working with Brianna over with the city and I think we'll be able to find a mutually beneficial solution," Wills said.

The Color Run has become an international phenomenon since its launch in 2012. Last year, it took place in Denver, and the organization wanted to bring the event to Colorado Springs as well. But the roadblocks have been unexpected.

"We've never actually had anything like this happen," Wills said. "I'm hoping we'll be able to solve the problems and make sure we have a successful day for Color Runners and for church patrons as well."

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