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Get out and about like never before in Boston's Great Urban Race

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 28, 2012 09:53 AM

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great urban race.jpgBy Samantha Curtin

The idea behind CBS’s The Amazing Race is pretty awesome: Contestants work their way around the globe by competing in mental and physical challenges and solving clues to lead them to their next destination. Unfortunately for those who dream of traveling the world in that way, the average person has only a slim chance of actually becoming a contestant on the reality show, and participation requires a huge time commitment.

However, it's a lot easier to participate in a smaller, shorter, localized version of the same concept. Bostonians will have the chance to do so next Saturday, May 5, during the “urban adventure” that is Boston’s Great Urban Race.

“It’s a very cool way to see the city that maybe you’ve been in for five months or five years and discover things that you wouldn’t see on a regular basis,” event organizer Katherine Keenan said of the Great Urban Race. “We like to find things that are off the beaten path, and we stray away from touristy spots.”

At the start of the race, each 2-4-person team will receive an envelope containing 12 clues, physical challenges, and brain teasers of varying levels of difficulty; anything from solving a puzzle to competing in a Segway race is fair game. The Great Urban Race kicks off at noon in Harvard Square, and contestants will have until 5 p.m. to complete the course and make it back to the finish line, also in Harvard Square.

“It’s all done by public transportation or on foot,” Keenan said. “Contestants cannot take taxis, or be driven there, or bike or rollerblade, so it’s really a test of endurance, as well as how well you know your city.”

That doesn't mean that contestants have to know the city like the back of their hand; they just have to have an open mind and be ready to think on their feet. The race will be 4-8 miles, depending on each team’s chosen route, so contestants should arrive well rested and hydrated, too.

The main reason to participate in the Great Urban Race is fun, but worthy charities will also reap the benefits. Nationally, the Great Urban Race has selected St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as its charitable organization. Participants are encouraged to register as St. Jude Heroes, with $10 donated for each person who does so. Teams that raise at least $250 for St. Jude are eligible for race-day prizes.

Each iteration of the race also chooses a local charity. “This year, our local charity partner is Ronald McDonald House Charities,” Keenan said. “Participants will donate something to the cause as a part of one the clues.”

After the race wraps up, contestants, their friends and family, and race spectators are invited to celebrate at an after-party, sponsored by Miller 64. The party includes a costume contest and an awards ceremony to recognize the day's top 25 teams. Those top finishers will compete later this year in the Great Urban Race National Championship, held in Las Vegas; the overall national winning team will receive $10,000.

“A lot of the people that do Great Urban Races love it so much that they travel from city to city to do them in preparation for the national championship,” Keenan said. “These races appeal to all ages and all types of people in the sense that, if they’re looking for some physical activity, that’s absolutely what that is, and if they’re looking to win, then there’s also an added challenge to qualify for the national championship.”

About Samantha -- I'm a South Shore native pursuing a career in the advertising industry, a lover of travel, snow, sand, and anything creative, and a Boston sports enthusiast with a secret desire to become the next Cake Boss. I want to do what I love and love what I do while continuing to travel the world. Twitter: @samanthancurtin

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