World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fij is an exciting, thrilling adventure across 671km of beautiful Fijian landscape. From jungles and mountains to deep canyons and open water, World’s Toughest Race collects 330 competitors (who form teams of five) and throw them into the toughest race of their lives.
Across the ten episodes we follow the elites and the rookies as they try to make their way across the unforgiving terrain, battling everything from storms and sticky mud to mental breakdowns and physical exhaustion. The rules are simple. Each of these teams are split into teams of five, with one taking up the role of Assistant Crew and sitting cozy in one of five different camps dotted across the main island.
Each team are given a specific amount of time to get through the different checkpoints, with 31 in total and cut-off times staggered across the 10 day event. Any team that doesn’t make the cut-off point by the allotted time are out of the competition. Along the way, each team has to find five different medallions that are hidden across the landscape.
Early on it’s a simple case of free-diving to the ocean floor, but as the episodes progress then so too does the level of challenge. Of course, the person who crosses the finish line with all five medallions at the end is considered the winner. For many of these men and women though, simply crossing the finish line is a feat unto itself.
Early on, the series follows a lot of the American teams that compete and uses all the stylistic tricks in the book to make things exciting. Slow-mo shots, repeated segments of boats capsizing and suitably urgent narration from Bear Grylls all combine to make this as thrilling as possible.
As the episodes progress, things start to settle down into a much more consistent rhythm. The teams start to thin out and become stretched across the different checkpoints, and there’s room to breathe and hear from the different competitors.
This also allows team members from countries like Spain, Estonia, India and even Fiji itself to have their voices heard. In that respect, the series is pretty balanced and hearing the inspirational stories for each of these competitors really helps add an empathetic edge to this.
Whether it be a son racing with his Dad whose been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, or Team Stray Dogs, made up entirely of elderly competitors, there’s a fascinating dynamic of different people here that you find yourself rooting for to cross the finish line.
During episode 3 for example, a team (no spoilers of course) almost don’t make the cut-off point and you find yourself willing them across the line before it’s too late.
This only increases as the episodes reach the climax of the competition, and therein lies the one big complaint I have with this series. Given how stretched out all these people are, it’s a little disappointing not to see a live-map or a position table crop up on screen to show where everyone is. Although there are a few instances of a map with different colours, it’s not always easy to see how spread out everyone really is.
With the amount of establishing shots used with helicopters, it seems like a perfect opportunity to show the positions everyone’s in. This is especially evident within the different Camps, which actually has a board erected to show all the teams and what position they’re in. There’s even some extreme close-ups of clipboards with certain times but yet, we don’t actually get to see any of this take place in real-time.
Still, it’s a minor point in what’s otherwise a really exciting and engaging reality series. This is most certainly the World’s Toughest Race. With a combination of mountain biking, running, swimming and rowing, there’s a lot of variety to the different activities these men and women have to endure. This is a must-watch series and one of the most thrilling races you’ll likely see in quite some time.
Verdict - 9/10