‘World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji’ – A Bear of a competition
After a 17-year-absence, the grueling Eco-Challenge adventure race is back in a series that begins streaming soon on Amazon.
In the 10-episode “World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji,” hosted by Bear Grylls (“Running Wild With Bear Grylls), executive produced by Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice”) and premiering Friday, Aug. 14, 66 teams of five from 30 countries vie in a 671-kilometer (about 417-mile) trek through the South Pacific island nation and its rugged terrain of mountains, jungles and ocean.
Along the way, they’ll confront not only their own physical limitations but also mental ones, as lack of sleep, exhaustion, general discomfort and pain of injury take their toll. Many don’t finish, but those who do have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve successfully faced down a brutal, unforgiving race whose closest comparison could be the Ironman World Championship.
“It is the Ironman on steroids,” quips executive producer Lisa Hennessy. “We have a quote that we eat the Ironman for breakfast.”
In addition to being the host and an executive producer, Grylls will serve as chief motivator for the teams of extreme athletes from multiple countries and walks of life, including business executives, members of the LGBTQ community, parents and children and grandparents and grandchildren.
“I think this race is especially dangerous just because of the elements,” Grylls explains. “You’ve got the terrain, you’ve got the weather, you’ve got the distances, you’ve got the fact that these guys are going to be sleep deprived. It’s nonstop. And also, you know, there is a lot that goes wrong when people get really fatigued. And this is a bit that concerns me the most. Ultimately, these guys have to navigate on their own, they’ve got to look after each other. But there is a lot that could go wrong out there.”
To mitigate danger, safety measures such as aerial surveillance, checkpoints and medical staff were put in place.
This race was run in September 2019, the first time it’s been contested since its original 1995-2002 run. When Burnett, the competition’s original creator, first contacted Grylls about reviving it, he gave the adventurer carte blanche to devise the course and put his own stamp on it. Grylls, a fan of the original, couldn’t resist.
“I think one of the really tough things about this is the fact that you’ve got to do it as a team,” Grylls says. “If you lose one person, one racer goes down, that’s the end of it for you. … Here, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.
“You’ve got to work together,” he continues. “You can’t waste energy arguing. Remember these guys are having to navigate. They don’t have a GPS. They’ve just got a compass, they’ve got a map. I think that element of the unknown is really hard.”