They can prepare for the running and they can try to study all the downtown businesses, but participants of the Bakersfield Amazing Race can never quite prepare for the silly and sometimes tricky challenges that will be thrown their way. But that's all part of the fun.

Returning for its sixth year on March 24, the Amazing Race will once again start and finish at the Wall Street Alley in downtown Bakersfield. Organizer Nick Gonzalez said the event is a hybrid of a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course, a trivia quiz and a 5K. 

"It's going to be a thrilling, action-packed, high-octane urban adventure through downtown," said organizer Nick Gonzalez. "It's really exciting. We're having a lot of fun planning."

When the race starts at 9:30 a.m. on the dot, teams will have just four hours to decipher the clues that tell them where to go and complete all the zany challenges at those locations before getting back to the finish line. But if they want to win? They'll have to go a lot faster than that.

"Usually the fastest is about an hour and a half," Gonzalez said. "Those ones are definitely hungry for the cash prize and bragging rights."

Only one team can win the $400 prize, and about 20 percent to 40 percent of teams are serious about competing, Gonzalez said. But pretty much everyone has their eye on the $200 best costume prize. It might require less physicality to win, but that doesn't make it easy.

"For the costume prize, most everybody is in it to win it," he said. "People get so creative."

There's also a prize for best Instagram photo, but that prize hasn't been decided yet.

Gonzalez did, of course, keep any hints about challenges or locations to himself but to let people know just what they might be getting into, he did share a couple of last year's challenges: one required teams to re-enact famous paintings at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Another involved nylon stockings, a hula hoop and a leaf blower at the 17th Place Townhomes.

"That puts into perspective how crazy it was," Gonzalez said. 

For the trivia, teams will just need to have "a good knowledge of life in general," Gonzalez said, as well as a good idea of downtown businesses, where each of the challenges will be held.

"A lot of people train and work on keeping up their stamina ... but because of the trivia aspect, you're also using your brain," he said. "I don't really know how you prepare for that."

Although past Amazing Races have had themes (like last year's April Fools theme when the race landed on April 1), Gonzalez said there is no theme this year. 

"We just want people to enjoy their time and bring their own creativity with their costumes," he said.

The event will start with the opening ceremony, where there will be some kind of surprise entertainment. When the race is done, there will be an after-party at Centro 18 Latin Steakhouse at 1 p.m. 

About 40 teams (of two to four people) participate in the Amazing Race each year, and the event regularly raises $10,000 for Stewards, a nonprofit that helps people on disability or retirement incomes manage their finances. In addition to the money, it also helps raise awareness of the organization, which more people know about because of the popular event, Gonzalez said. 

Helping a good cause while having lots of fun makes every team a winner. 

"It's just a great bonding experience for families and friends," Gonzalez said. "People are going to bring a lot of high-energy and it's going to be a lot of fun. ... It gets people out of their comfort zones."

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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