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It's A 5K 'Race' With No Winners, No Losers -- And No Course

Courtesy of City of Play
Participants explore Pittsburgh in a prior incarnation of City Spree

For runners, exploring the city is usually the byproduct of a footrace, not its purpose.

Then there's City Spree.

This 5K race organized by the group City of Play returns this weekend after a two-year hiatus. Participants will gather Sunday morning in Schenley Plaza, in Oakland, and be given paper maps marked with checkpoints in surrounding neighborhoods.

“Then they choose their own adventure, basically,” said Adam Nelson, who organizes City Spree. Runners or walkers who make it to five of the brightly colored checkpoints will have covered at least 5K, or just over three miles. And yes, there is a clock involved – runners have one hour to complete a 5K, and two hours for a 10K -- and attaining a checkpoint scores you points. But City Spree isn’t really a competition.

“The real idea is to get people to explore the neighborhoods that are around them and really go to places they've never been before,” said Nelson.

Nelson is founder emeritus of City of Play, which is now directed by Greg Manley. The group organizes a year-round myriad of games and activities around town for kids and adults, from weekly dodgeball sessions at the Ace Hotel to matches of obscure sports like circle-rules football.

The group’s most recent Spree was in 2015. This year’s edition, the first to start in Schenley Plaza, includes more than 30 checkpoints. “Some people go to all the checkpoints,” said Nelson, which counts as “a huge accomplishment.”

But, he emphasized, walkers are welcome. “Really the only thing you need to have is an adventurous spirit,” he said.

City Spree begins at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 20, with on-site registration starting at 8 a.m. Registration is $20-30.