On the morning of Oct. 20, the usual flow of trucks and motorcycles chugging through the wide streets of downtown Colorado Springs was replaced by a peculiar sight. Families, seniors, children, and couples strolled down the streets wearing the exact same thing — red and white striped long sleeve shirts, matching beanies, and cartoonish circular black glasses. The costumes imitated the character Waldo from the popular “Where’s Waldo?” children’s books. But the costumes served as more than just an outfit: they also acted as race kits.
People from all over Colorado Springs flocked downtown to participate in the annual Waldo Waldo 5K, a charity run designed to raise money for two local nonprofits. The beneficiaries are Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Trails and Open Spaces Coalition, both of which support restoration projects in Waldo Canyon.
In the hours after sunrise, participants gathered near the Pioneers Museum to register and take part in a group warm-up yoga activity. A group photo was taken, and the hundreds of Waldos gathered behind the starting line in “waves” based on speed. Pop music blasted from speakers above, mixed with cheers from the crowd as well as the echoing voice of the announcer.
At 9:42 a.m., the first wave of runners — mostly stringy young adults with running watches — was released, trailing behind a race official riding a bike mounted with a stuffed reindeer. The second wave was much the same, with some ambitious-looking kids mixed in. Then the bigger, slower waves started moving. This was where the loudest, most outrageously dressed, smiling participants came out. Mothers and daughters donned matching tutus and friends attached pom-poms to the backs of their Waldo high socks. Two kids managed to fit their Waldo outfits over identical inflatable dinosaur costumes. Valiant parents ran with strollers containing confused infants; a toddler riding in a red wagon clutched the neck of a Pikachu doll, absorbing his surroundings open-mouthed. The laughing and cheering continued until the crowd was blocks away.
In a little over 10 minutes, the area around the starting line was mostly empty. The spectators finished taking their Waldo pictures and a group of boisterous race volunteers wearing reflective vests remained.
Just as the stragglers left, the first Waldo arrived at the finish line. The announcer noticed him from afar and called for the attention of the few people in the area. “I know no one is here, but let’s make some noise!” Soon after, other runners came trickling, then pouring in. Their sweaty hands were greeted by cups of water and pieces of bananas, which were quickly replaced by cups of beer, tiny hot pies, coffee, and hot dogs. Sponsors for the event welcomed the runners with booths scattered around the park outside the museum, including Orangetheory Fitness, Elope, Shangri-La Aerial Arts, Colorado Mountain Club, Bristol Brewing Co., and others.
Couples and families found open spots of grass to rest on, and lines formed in front of food trucks. Friends rejoiced at their accomplishments. “I’m so proud of us,” one Waldo said to his Waldo companions. “Work-life balance, what’s up!”