Binghamton University students charged uphill near the Nature Preserve Sunday afternoon unprepared for the ambush lying ahead. As the 60 runners made the turn, they were bombarded with a rainbow of paint powder.

The fourth annual Steven Kovacs Walk Your Heart Out 5K took a colorful turn this year, forgoing the traditional 5K for a color run. The memorial charity run honored Kovacs, a 2009 BU alumnus and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brother, who died in 2009 as a result of mixed drug toxicity and bronchial pneumonia.

More than a dozen organizers from Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity lined the path to the preserve, raining powder down onto runners and encouraging them to keep moving.

“Get them, cover them up!” one organizer shouted.

Brian Kopping, a Phi Kappa Psi member and a sophomore majoring in biology, said the brothers were not holding back.

“The goal was just get the paint everywhere, on everything,” he said. “We wanted to use lots and lots of paint.”

Kenneth Choy, a Phi Kappa Psi member, never knew Kovacs, but said the event was still very important to the fraternity.

“Most of us now didn’t go to school with him, but there’s still alumni and family that come down every year,” said Choy, a sophomore majoring in biology. “It’s a really special event because it brings us together for a good cause.”

Participants were asked to donate at least $5 to Fairview Recovery Services and the Binghamton University Institute for Child Development. According to Leonard Labita, a Phi Kappa Psi member on the philanthropy committee, they raised $950 in donations from the 275 people at the event, and $6,000 in online donations from family and friends.

Joni Kovacs, Steven’s mother, said the 5K has increased in size over time.

“The event was originally started by Rebecca Fraid, who’s now graduated, but it’s grown every year,” she said. “The first time we did it, something like a hundred people turned out. This year, we’re at more like 300.”

Labita, a senior majoring in psychology, explained why Phi Kappa Psi decided to make the 5K into a color run this year.

“The Color Run has been a popular event for a couple years now. We thought it would be great idea to bring it to campus at a much lower cost than what the original offers. The event also attracts a wider audience of people because you don’t have to necessarily ‘run’ it in order to finish the race,” Labita wrote in an email.

Justin White, a freshman majoring in politics, philosophy and law, took the first-place ribbon in the run, but he said he earned more than the title.

“I started running track as a freshman in high school, and I’ve been training ever since,” he said. “But it was awesome, I had fun getting sprayed with colors and I made at least two new friends.”

Timothy Bobrowski, an undeclared freshman, said the excitement was contagious and all the runners were enthused.

“I liked how enthusiastic the organizers were. It pumped me and a lot of the runners up, too,” Bobrowski said. “There was this guy, who was right in front of me, and he was running in jeans. It was the most amazing athletic feat I’ve ever seen.”

Avneet Singh, a senior majoring in industrial engineering, Phi Kappa Psi member and one of the event’s organizers, said he looks forward to improving the 5K in the future.

“We had a lot of fun, good turnout and great support from Greek life,” he said. “We’re the first group to do a color run on campus and it went great. We hope to make next year even better.”