"Amazing Race" couple reflects on experience
SUMMIT COUNTY For five weeks late last fall, locals Barry and Fran Lazarus traded in their laid-back Summit County lifestyle for a fast-paced competition that led them half way around the world.The couple, who have been married for 40 years and live north of Silverthorne, vied against 11 other teams for a $1 million prize in CBS’ Emmy winning adventure reality show “The Amazing Race.” After 17 physically and emotionally taxing days of competition, the Lazaruses were eliminated in Perth, Australia last week, finishing in fifth place overall. The race, they say, was an experience of a lifetime.”We loved it,” Barry said Monday. “I mean very stressful, no question, but we had a ball.”
The race format directs teams from pit stop to pit stop around the world. Between stops, teams must collect clues that assign tasks, such as riding a zipline 300 feet through a valley, bungee jumping off a 240 foot bridge or more mundane assignments like opening hundreds of Russian dolls to find a tiny clue or rifling through 2,400 articles of clothing on a laundry line to locate one of 16 clues.Teams are provided with a certain amount of money to pay for needs like transportation and food. The last team to make it to the finish line at the end of each leg is typically sent home.The Lazaruses are in their early 60s, which made them the oldest competitors on the show, but what they may have lacked in speed and endurance, they made up for in map reading and navigation skills.Those skills helped them pull ahead in Jabreen, Oman, where they became the first retired couple in the show’s nine-season history to win a leg of the race. “… To get down to five teams, all of them are 35 years younger than we are and very athletic, and to knock them off at least once was very special,” Barry said.During the course of the race, Barry and Fran could never be separated by more than 20 feet, and were required to have a two-person camera and sound crew in tow at all times.
They received a 12-hour rest period after each leg of the race, and two 36-hour rest periods in the 17 days. The longest race leg lasted 42 hours.The Lazaruses applied for the television show in June 2005 by submitting a 15-page application and a 3-minute videotape.They soon found out they had made the first cut and met with producers in Los Angeles for an interview. In September, they were invited back to Los Angeles for a second 10-day interview process, where they underwent medical examinations, blood tests and psychological testing.A few days after leaving the city, they got the call that they had been selected.”We said, ‘We got to go to the gym and learn to swim,'” Fran recalled upon hearing they would be participating in the show.”Our one Achilles heel is that we are not good in the water, and we know there’s always something in the water, at least one or two legs,” Barry added.
They went to the rec center every day for three weeks before leaving for the show on Nov. 2.Since they were eliminated from the contest last Wednesday, they’ve appeared on CBS’ “The Early Show,” and have been interviewed for newspapers in Baltimore and Connecticut and for a dozen radio shows across the country.The show, it seems, has launched the couple into somewhat of a celebrity status.Recently, they flew into Thailand to visit their daughter in nearby Laos.”We were recognized about a dozen times on the street, in Bangkok, which was really funny,” Barry said.- Nicole Formosa
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