Last weekend Brad and I headed downtown to take part in Challenge Nation’s event here in Austin. It’s not any ordinary race though: it’s an urban scavenger hunt similar to the “Amazing Race” which can be completed in teams of 2 or more. In any normal race, speed is most important. But for Challenge Nation, you have to figure out the clues quickly and strategize the best route – and THEN speed comes into play.
Check-in ran from 11:30 to 12:45 and since there were over 140 teams registered, we arrived at Scholz Garden around noon just to be safe. Everything was organized very efficiently: pick up your bib, sign a waiver, grab a shirt, done. Quick and painless.
Just before the start of the race at 1pm, all team captains gathered outside of Scholz Garden to receive the clues and go over the rules. Basically you receive a list of 12 clues and you must complete 11 of 12. You can run or use public transit (in Austin’s case, this is limited to buses) but no taxis, cars, bikes, etc. All of the captains counted down from 10 and then were allowed to (walk, not run or trample) rejoin their team members.
I started at the top of the list and Brad started at the bottom. Once we had an answer for each clue (except for the one we planned to skip), we hit the ground running.
Here’s a few of the clues we had to solve:
“This is a clue that’ll ask you to be creative: for four decades, one of the most famous and well-attended festivals in ATX was the Aqua Fest, which last was held in 1998. To complete this clue, recreate the Aqua Fest with your team: take a photo with at least one teammate in an active fountain, in a shower, in a lake… or if you can’t find those, simply dump a bottle of water on a teammate’s head in the photo.”
Thank you fountain on UT campus, sorry to disturb you. Check!
“This Challenge will test your team’s ability to make friends and coordinate: with one other Challenge team, pose in front of any theater in town and act out any scene from a movie set in Texas with the whole group.”
Friday Night Lights, coming right up!
“THIS CLUE IS ONLY AVAILABLE UNTIL 2:30. Between the statues of two Confederates in Texas history – one you’ve probably heard of before and one who shares a last name with a more contemporary President – you’ll find a Challenge Nation staffer with some rings to play with. Have everyone on your team grab one, making sure this iconic Austin feature is in the background of your photo, then do the obvious activity for 2-3 seconds.”
“Texas is the live music capital of the country, and to mark that fact, you’ll need to find these props at one of the four gates to the Capitol. Which one? You’ll find a Challenge Nation staffer at the gate along the street that matches the # of the President who won office by promising to annex Texas. Once there, grab your neon-colored guitars and find your team’s inner rockstar when posing for this photo, with the Capitol in the background.”
We were down to our final clue and ran into a bit of trouble finding it. We definitely wasted too much time searching for it and then even trying to get creative with it, so we ended up having to go back to solve the one we initially planned on skipping. After a bit of Googling, Brad found out it was right around the corner from the finish line. Wish we would have figured that out from the beginning (the race started at the same place) because it would have saved us a TON of time.
It took about an hour and twenty minutes from the time we started working on the clues until we crossed the finish line. The official results aren’t posted yet so I’m not sure what place we came in, but it definitely wasn’t in the top 5 so no prize money or free bar tab for us. We grabbed a couple beers and chatted with a few fellow racers before heading home.
Overall, we enjoyed the race. We only went south of the Capitol building once and 5 or 6 of the clues were all on UT campus. I guess this works well if you’re trying to win the race, but I would have liked to see a little more trivia about the rest of the city. On the other hand, a few of the clues were things you really had to search for (like someone wearing a shirt with a city name NOT in Texas and NOT sports related – this one was hard, especially when all of ATX is decked out in burnt orange on Saturday) and we liked how challenging those were. The time constraints on a few of the clues also made it interesting.
If I had to choose between the Urban Dare and Challenge Nation, I think Urban Dare would have a slight edge. Although, registration for Challenge Nation is more affordable. Both races are a lot of fun and a great way to break up your normal race-for-a-PR schedule. It’s nice to rely on your brain every once in awhile before you rely on the speed in your legs!
Interested in the Challenge Nation? Find out here if there’s an upcoming race near you!