Recap: Urban Dare Adventure Race 2011

A friend and I took on Philly's downtown trivia hunt. I wore boots—not my best decision

At George Washington's fave happy hour spot... and our last checkpoint of the race!

Last Saturday, my friend and I headed to Oh!Shea’s Pub at 19th and Sansom Streets to compete in Urban Dare, the trivia adventure race that tests your brain (a.k.a Google-search skills) as much as your body. Presented with twelve clues, each team must find checkpoints scattered through Center City and Old City, completing challenges and snapping photos at each stop as proof.

At noon, the check-in line at Oh!Shea’s snaked through the restaurant and out the door. Some were dressed for battle in tight athletic gear and running shoes; I wore jeans and boots. But I wasn’t worried—this wasn’t a serious race, just a fun afternoon event, right? Wrong.

As my teammate and I strolled away from the pub examining our list of clues, other duos sprinted ahead. “Oh my god, they’re running. Should we run?” I asked. We ran; boots were a bad call.

We trotted along in our competitors’ wake while researching the impossible hints. How am I suppsoed to know where our Founding Fathers liked to enjoy a brew? (City Tavern, in case you’re wondering.) The rules mercifully allowed the use of smartphones and call-a-friends, without which I’d still be sitting in Rittenhouse Square scratching my head.

The trivia questions led us to art sculptures and landmark buildings in the city, including the “Gates of Hell” at the Rodin Museum, historic Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, and little-known (at least to me) Matthias Baldwin Park by Logan Square. Overall, we probably covered six miles, jogging and walking. Taking SEPTA was allowed, but I considered the blister forming on my heel to be the lesser annoyance.

The other upside to hoofing it was that I did some serious sightseeing. Philly has more adorable cobblestone alleys, parks and gardens than I ever gave it credit for. And while I knew our history on some vague, superficial level, I’d never slowed down to read the plaques, examine the colonial architecture, or take notice of the art that practically overflows our streets. As the race wore on, my teammate and I started to take our time, resolving to enjoy the comfortable weather that came as a welcome respite after days of rain.

In fact, my only complaint about the race was the lack of “dares.” On their website, event organizers say “you may have to climb a wall, shoot a few baskets, solve a riddle, or eat something.” In reality, we were only given one physical challenge: a backward three-legged race. Amusing as that was, the rest of the checkpoints required only a cheesy thumbs-up picture. Definitely a disappointment—I was hoping for some ridiculous Facebook pics of me scaling something.

The race still made for a fun, informative afternoon. It even left my quads feeling sore. My tips for next year’s challenge: wear comfortable shoes, fully charge your iPhone and disregard the estimated finish time. Most teams took around three hours to complete the circuit. In 157th place, my friend and I strolled back through the doors of Oh!Shea’s to clock in at 4:47:21. Hey, we stopped for lunch, too.