Exactly one year ago, which also happens to be Phil Keoghan’s birthday, my mom, my mommom and I ventured into NYC at 1 AM to watch the filming of the start of the 25th season of The Amazing Race. This was a complete spontaneous decision as we contemplated our trip for less than 12 hours. Let’s start from the beginning to clarify this adventure!
The days leading up to May 31st, 2014 the official Amazing Race Twitter page was inviting TAR fans to NYC to watch the start of the 25th season. No details where provided except that the filming for the race would start at 3 AM. Since NYC is only a (somewhat) short train ride away I was instantly attracted to the idea of going to witness the start of a historic season. TAR producers had NEVER let other people watch the start of the race so I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
For a few days I was trying to find someone to come with me. I asked my friend who I’ve watched the past 3 seasons with if he wanted to go knowing that he would be up to a late night in NYC, but he had prior commitments. So I asked my mom and dad since they also avidly watch the show. My dad wanted no part in pulling an all-nighter in NYC. He also thought that the whole filming would last about 5 minutes total and that it wouldn’t be worth it. My mom felt the same way too but understood how bad I wanted to go just to see what it was all about. And we invited my mommom to tag along too because she had previously pulled an all-nighter in NYC with my mom and I when we went to a free John Mayer summer concert hosted by The Today Show. Just consider us experienced when it came to spending time in NYC from the hours of 1 AM to 6 AM.
At 6 PM on May 30th I still couldn’t make a decision as to whether or not I should definitely go. Details still were very limited as to where the actually starting line would be. I knew that I would’ve regretted not going so by 6:30 my mom put down her foot and said “we’re going and there’s no turning back”. I quickly found poster paper to make a sign. One side of it said “Happy Birthday, Phil!” and the other side said “I don’t want a drink on my 21st Birthday – just a race application” because it was the truth. I was counting down the days until I was old enough to apply!
We took a train that left the station before midnight but not without some transportation drama. Due to construction, we ended up on the wrong side of the tracks when the train arrived and had to basically run across the overpass of the station onto the train (I don’t think the conductors were very happy with us but we were extremely grateful that we got on!) We arrived at Grand Central Station by 1 AM and were surrounded by intoxicated party-goers who had just left the nearby clubs of NYC. We hustled through the station and out onto the streets of the city. It’s also important to point out that I spent the train ride checking and re-checking Twitter to see live updates from fans who were already at the starting line. The starting line was located in the central part of Times Square at the infamous red bleachers.
By foot, we made our way to the starting area. By this time it was probably close to 2 AM and we stood on the sidewalk with about 100 other TAR fans. I saw a former racer, named Luke Adams, who had raced on a total of 3 seasons. Because I was so star-struck it took me awhile to approach him. I was greeted by him and his interpreter. I showed him my poster & he gladly autographed. We also got a picture together. It was awesome!
We then found a spot along the fence that separated the crowd and the camera crews. At this point the racers were no where to be found. There were several camera people who took a picture of me with my sign – they loved the fact that I wanted a race application instead of a drink on my 21st birthday! I’m hoping this is a good sign because maybe one day when they’re looking through applications they’ll remember “the girl with the sign” and cast me on the show.
Phil was rehearsing his lines that he would say to the racers. I also got to see one of the producers, Bertram van Munster, who was there to witness the season’s start. Phil came close to the fence and I joyously yelled a personal “Happy Birthday, Phil!” which got his attention! Now we were approaching the 3 AM mark & the crowd was getting anxious!
Each team arrived in their own individual taxi and the crowded erupted in cheers every time a team exited their cab. The teams lined up in the classic TAR semicircle and Phil did his usual introduction.
There were multiple times in which the racers looked like they were about to start, but it was only for editing purposes so the camera crew had multiple angles of the start. But soon they would be on their way around the world.
As we were waiting for the official start, I got to talk to some fellow TAR fans about our initial predictions for the season’s winning team. It was fun to discuss with other fans our predictions! When I rewatch the videos I can honestly say that we didn’t predict the winning team accurately at all (sorry, Maya and Amy!)
Finally, around 3:20 AM, Phil sent off the racers with the classic “the world is waiting for you….GO!”. The racers sprinted to the top of the red bleachers to grab their backpacks. One team, turns out it was The Cyclists (Kym and Alli), couldn’t initially find their bags so they were sprinting back and forth at the top of the bleachers as other teams read their clues. (They eventually DID find it, but I’ve taken a mental note to remember what color my bag is and/or chose a brightly colored unique bag when I race) The first team to sprint back down the steps and onto the streets of NYC was the orange team (Shelley and Nici). The crowd erupted!
The other teams followed closely behind and sprinted right past us in the crowd! It was AWESOME! Each team had their own camera man who also had to sprint around with them. It was so insightful to witness what happens at the start and how chaotic it truly is. The racers immediately hailed their own taxis and off they went! We heard rumors about where they were going but we didn’t have the opportunity to
follow stalk them on their journey.
Now that the excitement had died down and the teams were on their way around the world, I got to meet and take a selfie with Phil himself. I patiently waited as he went down the line of onlookers and fans. He kindly took the time to take a selfie with every person that wanted one. I thought this was great because that means he appreciates the fans who have been loyal to the show for the past 25 seasons. When he finally got to me, I showed him my poster (both sides), wished him a happy birthday, and told him that one day I plan on being on the race with my dad. He wished me luck, took my phone and took a selfie (IT WAS THE BEST MOMENT EVER!)
Since the excitement had concluded, my mom, mommom and I walked back to the train station discussing all that we had witnessed. We arrived in the train station by about 4 AM but the next available train back to NJ wasn’t scheduled to come until 6 AM. So we found the designated waiting area and I looked through my pictures and videos over and over and over again. I was WIDE awake despite the fact that it was 6 AM and I still hadn’t slept in my bed. I was in complete awe that I had witnessed the start of the race and had the opportunity to meet Phil and Luke. My mom and mommom were feeling sleepy but happy nonetheless.
Every time I think of this night or rewatch the videos, I am reminded about my dream to be on the race one day. I want to be on that starting line with 12 other teams. I want to have Phil standing in front of me telling me that the world is waiting. I want to sprint to a line of backpacks, rip open a clue, and sprint to find the best form of transportation to my destination. I want to feel that excitement again. The next time I ever witness the start of a new season, I want to be on that starting line. I want to know how it feels to race around the world…and hopefully avoid getting Philiminated!