If there’s one smidgen of a silver lining we can take from this damn pandemic, it’s that we’ve been treated to a bounty of incredible docuseries to keep us entertained. From the early days of the lockdown when the world was enthralled and shocked in equal measure by the antics of the Tiger King, to the epic re-telling of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls’ tenure in The Last Dance and lately the access-all-areas Spurs doc All or Nothing, we have been spoilt rotten.
One such docuseries, which dropped in the middle of August on Amazon Prime and has been criminally overlooked, is the sensational World’s Toughest Race. The name might sound hyperbolic but trust us, this really is the most insane, adrenaline-filled, drama-laden race you’ll ever witness. Hosted by Bear Grylls, The World’s Toughest Race makes any of the survival expert’s previous TV shows look like A Place In The Sun by comparison.
The premise is simple - over 60 teams, made up of four competitors each, from every conceivable corner of the globe, must race in the Eco-Challenge, a 417-mile (671k) journey across Fiji which features some of the toughest terrain on the planet. Competitors compete for 24 hours a day (the race brings new meaning to ‘power-nap’) for 11 days straight, as they swim, climb, sail, mountain bike and much more across the Pacific island. It is the ultimate test of endurance and one of the most awe-inspiring shows you’ll see in 2020. Here are five reasons, you definitely shouldn’t miss out on The World’s Toughest Race.
These are the warriors who make the docuseries what it is. The show is essentially split between two factions, the front of the pack, the teams who are veterans of the adventure racing world and are expecting to land on the podium, and then there’s the teams who just want to finish. Make no mistake the frontrunners are superhuman, but every single person who undertakes this task will leave you absolutely awe-struck.
Grizzled explorers, war veterans and people who simply just want to prove they’re tough enough to make the distance, the race caters for everyone. Among the most inspiring (and trust us, there are a lot) are Team Stray Dogs, a squad made up entirely of veteran adventure racers going for it one last time on the brink of their seventies. Word of warning, don’t watch this hungover…you will cry.
With over 260 people making their way through ice cold rivers, unbreachable jungles and the steepest inclines this side of Kilimanjaro, you’re bound to come across drama along the way, and The World’s Toughest Race has it spades. Watching a stranded team from Estonia wade their way through a hurtling river in the depths of the night, with the water levels rising by the second, is one of the most intense visual experiences outside of Netflix’s Free Solo.
We don’t want to give it all away before you’ve seen it but once you’ve seen someone nearly succumb to hypothermia and still finish the race, or see a woman crawl to a rescue helicopter on her hands because an infection was eating away at her feet, you’ll soon realise these are some of the toughest hombres on the planet.
The nation island itself is a gem to behold. Utterly beautiful and jaw-dropping one second, a malevolent spirit the very next, picking off these unwitting competitors one by one. Even when the athletes are at their absolute lowest, freezing cold or in the aftermath of the gnarliest mountain bike crash, Fiji looks as beautiful as ever from the highest mountain range to the smallest village.
The next Eco-Challenge is pencilled in for Patagonia, hopefully next year (current pandemic pending, of course), where the next batch of competitors will face an equally spectacular course that “may include sections of fixed ropes, trekking, glacier travel, horseback riding, mountain biking, kayaking and special challenges”. Bring. It. On.
The island wouldn’t be what it is without the people who inhabit it and it just so happens that Fijians are amongst the happiest and loveliest people on the planet. Cheering on the competitors the whole way, giving them shelter, care and food - the people of Fiji, literally in some cases, carry them over the finish line.
Fiji are also represented in the race with their own teams, and watching them work together to complete the race, brothers and sisters in arms, is one of the most heart-warming moments of the show.
You might not want to sign up to the first adventure race you see once you’ve finished this series but you’ll be itching to get out and do something, even if it's that 5K you’ve been putting off since forever. While many of the athletes in The World’s Toughest Race are undoubtedly superhuman, many are simply ordinary with the potential to do extraordinary things - if they can do the seemingly impossible, why can’t you?
You can watch all ten episodes of The World’s Toughest Race on Amazon Prime now.