The Amazing Race

Template:Infobox television

The Amazing Race is a reality game show usually broadcasted in one-hour episodes in which teams of two or four race around the world in competition with other teams. The CBS program has been on-air since 2001 and is currently in between seasons. It is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and hosted by Phil Keoghan. It was created by Bert van Munster.

The race itself combines the progressive elimination of Survivor, but instead of a voting-based elimination, it is the last team to arrive at designated checkpoints that leave the game. The race resembles a treasure hunt in amateur rally racing. The race starts in a US city. Teams must then follow clues and instructions and make their way to checkpoints in places around the world, eventually racing back to the finish line in the US.

For two straight years (2003 and 2004), The Amazing Race was awarded the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality/Competition Program. It defeated popular competitors including CBS' Survivor (which was the first reality show to win an Emmy) and Fox's American Idol both years, as well as NBC's The Apprentice in 2004. The show aims to win a third consecutive Emmy in 2005; the producers have submitted Season 7 for consideration.



Each of the eleven teams (twelve in Season 3 and Season 4) on The Amazing Race is composed of two individuals who have some type of relationship to each other. Season 8 of the race will feature teams of four, and Season 9 will return to the two-person team format. The teams represent a wide demographic of different ages, races, sexual orientations, and personal relationships. Past team relationships include: long-time married couples, siblings (including twins), parent/child, friends (roommates, fraternity brothers, platonic friends, high school friends, lifelong friends etc), romantic partners (both heterosexual and homosexual), and couples who are separated or formerly dating.

Originally, the race required team members to have a pre-existing relationship and to have known one another for at least three years. In addition, racers from different teams could not have previous acquaintances with one another. However, producers have shown more leniency and changed these rules in recent installments of the race. For example, Kris and Jon from Season 6 were long-distance daters for only a year. In Season 5, Nicole, Christie, Erika, and Alison had previously known one another through various beauty pageants. (Nicole actually beat Christie for the title of Miss Texas USA in 2003.[1] (

Teammates must race the entire race together; they cannot split up or continue on without each other. If one teammate becomes injured and is unable to finish the race, the team must forfeit (for example, Marshall and Lance during Season 5). Both teammates must also arrive at each Pit Stop together in order to clock in. The various relationship dynamics between the team members under the stress of competition is one focus of the show.


At the beginning of each leg of the race, each team receives an allowance of cash with their first clue. This money is usually given in U.S. Dollars regardless of the current location of the race. The amount varies from leg to leg, ranging from one dollar to hundreds of dollars. During the race, all expenses (food, transportation, lodging, attraction admission, supplies) must be purchased from this allowance. The exception to this is the purchase of airline tickets, which the teams pay for using a credit card supplied to them by the show. Any money left over after a leg of the race can be used on subsequent legs.

In Seasons 5 and 6 the last team to finish a "non-elimination leg" of the race has been forced to surrender all collected money and must then collect money either before or at the start of the next leg of the race. In Season 7, this penalty intensifies: teams are not permitted to collect money before the start of a leg of the race, and all of the team's possessions are confiscated (backpacks, toiletries, jackets, et cetera) with the exception of passports and the clothes they are wearing. They lose these items for the rest of race. However, Gretchen of Season 7 revealed, in outakes available on CBS' website, that she was able to keep her tampons. They can borrow clothing or other needed items from other teams, if the other teams will give the items to them.

If a team spends all of their money or has it taken away in a non-elimination round, they may try to get more money in any way that doesn't violate local laws. This includes borrowing money from other teams, begging from locals, or selling their possessions. One rule that was clarified in Season 7 is that teams may not beg for money at US airports.

Route Markers

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Route Markers were yellow and white in the first season.

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Route Markers were changed to yellow and red for the following seasons.

Route Markers instruct teams where to go next or what task to complete. Upon arriving at each new location, teams must find the next Route Marker in order to proceed. If the teams must complete an objective, the next Route Marker is given to them after completion.

Route Markers were colored yellow and white in the Season 1, but they were changed to bright yellow and red in subsequent seasons so that the teams would have an easier time spotting them.

One notable exception involving the color of the Route Markers occurred during Season 3, when the production visited Vietnam. While there, the flags used were a solid yellow, to avoid confusion with the flag of the former Republic of South Vietnam.

Special Markers

Some Route Markers in The Amazing Race involve special rules and twists, requiring teams to split up or perform special tasks in order to proceed.


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Detours are yellow cards with arrows on them.

Each leg of the race features a Detour. A Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. One task is typically an easier option that takes more time to complete, while the other is a difficult or riskier option that can be finished quickly. In later seasons, the trend has been towards Detours which offer less clear-cut choices. Often, there may be some degree of luck involved with the "easier" option, such that a team may accomplish the task faster than if they had taken the quicker, harder, riskier option. Should a team choose to switch Detour tasks part-way through, there is no penalty.


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Roadblocks are red cards.

A Roadblock is a task which only one team member may perform. Before heading into a Roadblock, teams read a vague clue about the task to come, i.e., "Who's really hungry?," or "Who wants to get down and dirty?" Often, a team may figure out the specific task by observing their surroundings, using common sense, or even seeing other teams already performing the Roadblock task. They then must decide which team member would be best suited to complete it. Once a choice has been made, the teammates cannot switch roles. Beginning in Season 6, each team member is only allowed to complete a maximum of six roadblocks throughout the entire race. The rule change forces both team members to contribute equally rather than one team member significantly carrying the team throughout the race (Various teams, Season 5). A Roadblock is featured (although, in some episodes, not aired) in every leg except the first one.

Fast Forward

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Fast Forwards are green cards.

The Fast Forward allows the first team that finds it to skip all remaining tasks on that leg of the race and proceed directly to the Pit Stop. To find the Fast Forward, the team must perform the task described on the Fast Forward clue, which is found along with a regular clue at one of the Route Markers.

Only one team may use each Fast Forward. Any team that is beaten to the Fast Forward must go back and complete the regular challenges. Since each team may only use one Fast Forward during the whole race, they must decide when it is most advantageous to use it. A Fast Forward usually results in the team arriving at the Pit Stop first, but does not guarantee it. In the history of the show, two teams who earned a Fast Forward still arrived last at the Pit Stop. Joe and Bill during Season 1 arrived last but were not eliminated due to a penalty to Nancy and Emily. Dennis and Andrew during Season 3 were eliminated. Similarly, NFL wives Monica and Sheree of Season 4 earned the Fast Forward but only placed 4th in the first leg (behind a three-way tie for first, the only time this has ever happened on the race).

The first four seasons of The Amazing Race featured Fast Forwards in all legs but the last. Beginning in Season 5 onward, only two Fast Forwards are hidden in the entire race.


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Yield signs are yellow.

The Yield was introduced in Season 5. A Yield allows the first team that discovers it to stop any team behind them at the Yield for a predetermined amount of time as mandated by an hourglass. Like the Fast Forward, each team may use only one Yield during the game. However, each team may be Yielded by another team an unlimited amount of times. In Season 6, the number of Yields was reduced from one on every leg to only three in the entire race. Teams are warned about upcoming Yields in the clue immediately preceding it.

Pit Stops

Pit Stops are the final destination in each leg of the race. Each Pit Stop is a mandatory rest period which allows teams to eat, sleep, and mingle with each other. The production staff provides food free-of-charge to the teams at the Pit Stops (food during the legs must be purchased with the money the teams receive). During the Pit Stop, teams are also interviewed to provide commentary and voice-overs for the completed leg.

Teams depart for the next leg of the race at the time they arrived plus twelve hours. While a team arriving at 12:00 PM will depart at 12:00 AM, for example, the total amount of rest time may be more than twelve hours--such as one day and twelve hours (36 hours).

The last team to arrive at the Pit Stop is eliminated, unless that leg of the race is one of the predetermined non-elimination legs (see below). In some legs, the first team to arrive wins a prize such as a vacation or camera, which they receive at the end of the race. In Season 6, prizes were given to the winners of every leg. In Season 7, cash and automobile prizes were awarded for the first time on some legs; unlike season 6, however, at least two legs have gone without a prize being awarded.

Teams normally complete all tasks and check in at the Pit Stop before they are eliminated. Occasionally, on a elimination leg, if all other teams have checked in and the last team is very far behind, Route Markers may instruct them to go directly to the Pit Stop without completing the rest of the leg (Peggy and Claire, Shola and Doyin, Mary and Peach, all from Season 2). Alternately, host Phil Keoghan may go out to the team's location to eliminate them if they can't/won't finish a task (Lena and Kristy, Season 6).

Season 6 introduced the first double-length leg shown over two episodes. The televised episode ended without a Pit Stop with a 'To Be Continued' message. The second half of the leg featured a second Detour and second Roadblock. Season 7 had another, this time with teams meeting host Phil Keoghan on the usual Pit Stop mat at the halfway point, only to have him hand them the next clue instead of checking them in.

Non-elimination Legs

Each race has a number of predetermined non-elimination legs, in which the last team to arrive at the Pit Stop is not eliminated and is allowed to continue on the race. Racers are not explicitly told which legs are non-elimination legs. In Seasons 1-4, the clue preceding the Pit Stop ended with the statement, "The last team to arrive will be eliminated," except in some non-elimination legs. Beginning in Season 5, the statement was changed to, "The last team to arrive may be eliminated" on every leg with the exception of the first.

Season 5 introduced a penalty to the team arriving last at a Pit Stop in a non-elimination leg. These teams are required to turn over all the money they accumulated throughout the race. Additionally, the last team to arrive begins the next leg without the allowance given to the other teams. Teams generally beg from locals or even the other teams during the Pit Stop to rebuild their cash reserves.

During Season 7, the penalty for arriving last during a non-elimination leg became more severe. In addition to being stripped of all their money and starting the next leg without an allowance, teams were forced to surrender all their possessions, except for their passports and the clothes they were wearing, for the remainder of the Race. This usually results in teams who feel they are coming last checking in wearing several layers of clothes at the pit stop. Teams are also told that they must begin the next leg without any money, likely meaning they can no longer collect money during the pit stop.

Final Leg

Three teams compete in the last leg of the race. This first part of the leg includes an intermediate destination where the teams must travel to complete a series of tasks (Alaska, Seasons 1 and 2; Hawaii, United States, Seasons 3, 4, and 6; Calgary, Canada, Season 5; Puerto Rico, United States, Season 7). The second part of the leg has teams traveling to a final destination, located in a major city in the United States. Remaining teams must complete several tasks before receiving the clue directing them to the Finish Line. At the Finish Line, host Phil Keoghan and all the eliminated teams wait for the remaining teams to arrive.

The first team to reach the Finish Line wins the race and $1 million. All other teams win lesser amounts of money on a sliding scale based on their finishing order. Ideally, all three remaining teams arrive at the Finish Line within a reasonable amount of time. On occasion, the third place team has fallen so far behind the other two teams that they cannot finish the race in a timely manner. In this case, after the other two teams finish, they are informed that the race is over at their next Route Marker (Joe and Bill, Season 1; David and Jeff, Season 4).

Rules of the Race

All teams must abide by the rules set at the beginning of the race. Failure to do so can result in time penalties, which can negatively affect finishing position in that leg of the race. While the complete set of official rules has not been released to the public, certain rules have been revealed during the various editions of the race:

  • Teams must purchase economy class tickets for airfare. Teams are allowed to be upgraded to first or business class by the airline, as long as they only paid an economy fare (Frank and Margarita, Season 1; Reichen and Chip, Season 4; Ray and Deana, Season 7).
  • Teams are not allowed contact with known friends, family, and personal acquaintances during race. However, teams are allowed to stay in contact with and receive help from people they meet during the race, such as travel agents. (One exception to this rule occurred in Season 3. Teams were offered a cellular phone after completing a detour. As CBS's website explains, "They had the option of making one phone call to their loved ones back home before driving to the chateau. Teams could talk on the phone as long as they wanted, but had to end the call before getting in their cars.")
  • For misreading a clue's instructions, the penalty is the amount of time gained by breaking the rule plus an additional 30 minutes (Heather and Eve, Season 3; Reichen & Chip, Season 4). It should be noted that in Season 2, Will and Blake (on separate teams) misread their Roadblock clues and completed the task incorrectly. They simply re-performed the task before checking in at the Pit Stop and did not receive time penalties. Uchenna and Joyce on Season 7 also completed a roadblock incorrectly, but were allowed to perform the missed portion of the the task and check in again at the Pit Stop without a penalty.
  • Intentionally disobeying a clue's instructions results in a 24 hour penalty (Nancy and Emily, Season 1).
  • Any action that doesn't follow the proper detour directions receives a 30 minute minimum penalty (for Andre & Damon of Season 3, this also had a 48 minute penalty for time improperly gained, thus 78 minutes in total).
  • Taking more than one clue from the clue box results in a 30 minute penalty (Freddy and Kendra, Season 6).
  • Any action which disadvantages another team, such as driving away in another team's car, results in a 30 minute penalty (Don and Mary Jean, Season 6).
  • Voluntarily quitting a Roadblock results in a 4 hour penalty which begins as soon as the next team arrives at the task (Hayden and Aaron, Season 6; Rob and Amber, Ray and Deana, Meredith and Gretchen, Season 7).
  • Teams that skip a Route Marker are not allowed to check-in at the Pit Stop. They are not assessed a penalty, but are directed by host Phil Keoghan to complete the missed tasks. For example, Chip and Kim and Kami and Karli of Season 5 failed to retrieve a Route Marker. Derek and Drew of Season 3 skipped a Route Marker and thus attempted to check-in without completing a Roadblock. They were informed that they could not check in until the Roadblock was completed. In Season 7, Meredith and Gretchen reached the Pit Stop but missed their final clue after a Roadblock; they were directed to retrieve it before checking in.
  • If a team's vehicle breaks down through no fault of their own, they may request a replacement vehicle without receiving a time penalty. However, no time credit is given for their wait in this unlucky situation. This occurred several times in Season 7. Numerous teams received replacement boats when the motor of their original boats stalled. Brian and Greg wrecked their vehicle, and received a replacement. In yet another episode, Lynn and Alex received two replacement vehicles: one where the car broke down and another vehicle when they suffered a flat tire.
  • Teams may be forced to submit their backpacks and possessions to searches by production staff at any time.

Countries and locales visited

Continent Country
North America United States (including Puerto Rico), Mexico, Canada, Jamaica
South America Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, Chile
Europe France (including Corsica), Italy, Portugal, Germany, the United Kingdom (including England and Scotland), Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Turkey
Africa Zambia, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana
Asia United Arab Emirates, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, China (including Hong Kong), South Korea
Oceania Australia, New Zealand

Note: The table does not include airport stopovers, such as Japan. It only contains countries that fielded actual route markers, challenges or finish mats.


  • Each team is accompanied by a cameraman and soundperson throughout the race. When purchasing tickets, teams must also buy them for their camera crew. On the program, teams are only shown requesting two tickets, so that they don't break the fourth wall.
  • Also, for similar reasons, the show makes the point of not actually showing the crews to the point where crewmen have actually been digitally removed from the picture in post-production ( However, during Jonathan and Victoria's shoving incident during Season 6, a cameraman and soundperson were plainly visible filming the team that had checked-in ahead of them. Additionally, Victoria was shown sitting next to the crew tent. Also, Season 7 featured an incident where Brian and Greg's cameraman was shown lying on the ground after suffering minor injuries in an auto accident.
  • The camera and sound crews rotate teams after each leg.
  • Host Phil Keoghan is known to take the same flight as the teams on various legs of the race.
  • Eliminated teams are often sent to "sequesterville", a foreign location on the race where they get to relax and do some sightseeing until the race is over.
  • Teams receive monetary compensation for the time away from their jobs back home. Even after the race has aired, however, the amount is still required to remain confidential.
  • For filming purposes, team members are generally required to stay within 20 feet of each other, unless one person is performing a Roadblock.
  • The opening credits feature scenes and locations from past and current seasons of the race.
  • Teams need to receive travel visas ahead of time for the countries that they will be visiting. However, to keep things as much of a surprise for the teams as possible, production will obtain visas from more countries than are actually on the race itinerary. In doing so, the final destinations still remain a secret.


Despite The Amazing Race's recent surge of popularity, the show is not without its share of criticism and controversy. Main problems include:

  • Bunching, where teams are constantly grouped together due to bottlenecks such as chartered flights and pre-planned hours of operation of businesses that the teams must use to complete tasks. While all versions of the Race have suffered such problems, many fans feel that recent seasons (and Season 6 particularly) had more than usual or, perhaps, necessary. Nevertheless, bunching teams also adds to the unending suspense that many feel some of the earlier seasons lacked.
  • The confrontational, and sometimes abusive behaviour presented by certain players, most notably Jonathan (Season 6) and Colin (Season 5).
  • The stunt casting of teams where producers have tended to cast models, actors, and more recently past reality show stars. For example, Season 5, featured one past reality show contestant (Alison was on Big Brother), Season 7, featured three past reality show contestants (Brian was on Fear Factor; Rob and Amber had been on multiple editions of Survivor). In fact, many teams had connections to the producers or past contestants, trivializing the standard application process. For example, Dennis and Erika (Season 5) had known previous racers Jon Vito and Jill (Season 3) for many years.[2] (
  • The watering down of the clues in subsequent seasons. For example, in Season 1 the majority of Route Markers contained clues about the next location, not specifically stating the location itself. In recent seasons, there have been few, if any actual clues for teams to decipher.
  • Design of challenges, especially food competitions. Recent seasons have emphasized gross-out extreme eating contests reminiscent of Fear Factor, rather than focusing on the cultural aspect of the challenge.
  • Repetition of tasks in different seasons. Season 7's Fast Forward task in Leg 8 featured the same hair-shaving task as Season 5, although Season 5's was not taken.


Links to Amazing Race seasons, with their original airdates in parentheses. The series completed Season 7, and is in between seasons.

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