Urban Dare in Lexington will put teams to the test

As part of a previous Urban Dare challenge, teams had to kiss a frog — lucky for them, it was a statue and not the real thing.
As part of a previous Urban Dare challenge, teams had to kiss a frog — lucky for them, it was a statue and not the real thing.

Summer is as good a time as any for a leisurely stroll to take in the history and sights of downtown Lexington. But an event this weekend will give participants a chance to see the city in a way that cranks up the leisure and turns the stroll into a mad dash.

This will all come courtesy of Urban Dare, which combines a footrace, a trivia challenge and a scavenger hunt into one. It comes to Lexington on Saturday.

According to Kevin Keefe, president of Urban Dare, the first event was organized in Washington, D.C., in September 2005, and its success led Keefe to expand his modest initial plans.

"I thought I'd do two or three races a year and it would be a nice little hobby," Keefe said. "I had so much fun at it and thought it had so much potential, I added a few races each year."

In 2011, Urban Dare has 46 races scheduled in cities across the country and will make its first stop in Lexington this weekend.

Teams of two will be given a "passport" and a list of a dozen clues. Most are photo clues, requiring teams to find and snap pictures of their team members at various Lexington landmarks.

The other clues are "dares:" Teams have to complete a task in front of an Urban Dare official to get their passports stamped. In the past, these dares have included three-legged races; jumping rope; solving a puzzle; and something called the "spellbound dare," which tests a team's spelling and math skills.

Competitors may complete the clues in whatever order they choose but may navigate the city only on foot or public transportation. The first team to get all the necessary stamps in its passport, proving that it has completed every task, wins $300. The top five finishers get the chance to compete for $5,000 in the Super Dare, a national, multiday best-of race that has taken place in the spring in previous years.

The setup is similar to the Urban Challenge, an event that came to Lexington in 2004.

John Toner, race director for Urban Dare in Lexington, said he expects upwards of 100 teams to sign up for this weekend's race.

For prospective racers, he said, a familiarity with certain topics will give them an edge.

"If you know pop culture well and you know history well and you know Lexington well, those things are going to help out a lot," Toner said. "Basically, if you have a lot of useless information, that will help also."

But Urban Dare organizers said even though you might have a two-person team, you shouldn't rule out using your smartphone or a few buddies to lend a hand with the tasks. In fact, they say that's a surefire way to get you one step closer to victory.

"We test people's knowledge but, you know, we've got Google lurking in the background," Keefe said. "Some of the best teams still have support by phone, ... having other people that aren't running alongside of you but working the race with you."

According to Toner, Urban Dare attracts various levels of racers, from the highly competitive to casual teams just looking for something adventurous, but it tends to give them the same feelings after it's all over.

"Once everybody runs the race, everybody wants to do it again," Toner said. "It's rare for people to run the race and not have a good time."