Famous survival instructor Bear Grylls gets candid about the value of teamwork in high-pressure settings, and why people under lockdown should especially watch ‘World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji’
Bear Grylls is perched on a windy cliff edge somewhere in the United Kingdom, sporting his trademark shades and cheeky grin. He is awaiting the release of Amazon Prime’s World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji, part of a franchise created 24 years ago. To this year, the reality adventure series continues to offer a gruelling amalgam of extreme endurance, rough terrains, taxing mental and physical pressures, and moments of uplifting and laughter.
The 10-episode adventure series — hosted by Grylls and executive produced by Mark Burnett — is an up-close documentation of a gritty expedition race, in which 66 teams from 30 countries (330 competitors) race non-stop for 11 days, 24 hours a day, across 671 kilometres of rugged Fijian terrain complete with mountains, jungles, ravines and oceans.
World’s Toughest Race is another feather in the 46-year-old’s very busy hat, but holds a special place in his heart. “We’ve never hosted or put together a show of this scale and ambition before; seeing humans at such their physical, emotional and mental limits was so incredible and inspiring. We didn’t know if people were able to finish it. The teamwork aspect — starting and finishing as a team — is unique to World’s Toughest Race. When a team comes together just right, it’s like a team of 20. But when there’s sleep deprivation and lost, and you blame someone for poor navigation, the team also falls apart.”
Grylls even goes full English, and likens teams placed in high-pressure situations to a teabag in hot water, where ultimately true strength and vibrancy are revealed.
He commends Team Khukuri Warriors’ Tashi and Nungshi Malik from India as “true inspirations; they’re all about positivity and smiling through the storms.”
But as the host, Grylls often has to remind himself to, unlike during a show like Running Wild, step back and let the adventurers engage in their own race, which he says adds to the rawness of the experience. “We have lots of support crews — helicopters, medics, and more — when people’s lives were on the line or if weather changes were just too much. But on the whole, we had to let them make mistakes. I watched some teams make catastrophic navigational errors which would just end their race. But when they’re pushed to their limits, you see them come through. This show teaches us resilience, kindness and more.”
One has to ask what Bear Grylls does during his lockdown; he admits he’s watched a bit of television here and there while being involved in the final edits of World’s Toughest Race. The former SAS serviceman has largely been making the most of the time to keep up his skills and getting his B Military Fit program (outdoor group fitness classes) running.
The timing of The World’s Toughest Race during the COVID-19 lockdown is “incredible,” states Grylls. He adds, “We are in a global time of hardship, which requires you at home to work with your team — your family or those you work with — and weather your own ‘storms’. The World’s Toughest Race has you look at kindness, courage in the big moments, calm in the crises, adaptability, and resilience.”
World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji streams on Amazon Prime Video from August 14.