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Confessions of an Urban Hunter: The Mitsubishi City Chase

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Happy Finishers at 2008 Calgary City Chase ©City Chase Inc

Escaping the mega-city — that was my purpose when I moved west to Calgary in 1997. That and getting close to the mountains. I arrived with an allergy to downtown, usually only venturing there to see the judge about my nagging Ontario leadfoot problems. I was a wilderness snob, and the city was a necessary evil to pay for my lifestyle.

Somewhere along the way, I lost this snobbery, and became a city booster! I began to appreciate the architecture, the culture, and yes even the infrastructure. Right here in our city was a plenitude of recreational and nature enjoyment opportunities. Then, in 2004, I stumbled upon the City Chase, an event some would say has defined me for the past five years …so much so that last season’s televised episode dubbed me “The Godfather of City Chase.”

City Chase is part scavenger hunt, part urban obstacle course. Teams of two spend six hours searching for 20 to 30 ChasePoints scattered over the city, using only their feet and public transit. The first team to return to the finish line with 10 ChasePoints — testing physical and mental personal limits — earns a trip to the Canadian Championships, hosted in a secret locale. There they’ll face a 1 in 8 chance of winning a lease on a Mitsubishi Lancer and the honour of representing Canada at the World Championships.

Sure, the race involves fascinating problem solving and route planning. Sure, the ChasePoint challenges are as varied as they are fun. But the real thrill of the Chase is having to deal with the unexpected. This is when your next decision just might decide your team’s fate. This is what keeps you up at night thinking, what if … and yet I love it!

No team ever runs a perfect race. It’s how well you deal with setbacks that determines your final placing. Last year’s Calgary race was a perfect example. I had a new, unproven race partner, and teams were obviously gunning for us. Rivalries were amped up for the TV cameras, and we were feeling the pressure. Our strategy was to let our HQ make almost all of the decisions for us. They came through big time. A slow team, we missed some key transit connections. On post-race analysis, the 2nd through 4th placing teams should easily have beaten us, if not for a single critical mistake that each team made.

I don’t expect everyone is going to embrace the City Chase as earnestly as I have, but no matter what your commitment level, I can guarantee you’ll have an unforgettable experience! My good friend, fellow Calgarian, and current Canadian Champion Nicki Rehn summed it up perfectly after her recent experience at the World Championships in Morocco:

“City Chase has something to teach us all. It throws our everyday world upside down, challenges us to connect … to connect to ourselves, to our fellow humans, to other cultures … to become more adaptable, resilient, flexible, easy-going, and problem solving. […] It represents an intense snapshot of the way life should be lived, and that’s why I love City Chase.”

I can’t wait for the next Calgary event, coming up, significantly, on D-Day … the sixth of June, 2009. I won’t be competing this year, as l am a co-organizer. In fact, knowing the course we have planned, any team can win … especially since none of the past champion teams will be returning this year.

Bill Jarvis

Note: this article appeared in Out There Magazine, Spring 2009 — for the full-colour version complete with photos, pick up your own copy at the Out There store on Stephen Ave & 1 St SW in Calgary.

3 Responses to “Confessions of an Urban Hunter: The Mitsubishi City Chase”

  1. Bill says:

    We ran a pretty amazing City Chase PR event today in front of Out There on the Stephen Avenue Mall. Video evidence is here

  2. Lindsay says:

    Any tips for a new Chaser? I’m competing in this Saturday’s race in Toronto!

  3. Bill says:

    Lindsay,

    1. Read up on old events here.
    2. Have an awesome support team – a google expert, a transit expert and neither should be afraid to call businesses for information (e.g. is there a massive line-up there?).
    3. Always be moving, never hesitate.

    Bill