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Race Across the World’s Stephen and Viv from Rutland discuss their time on hit BBC One television show including getting naked in Japanese onsen





A retired couple have revealed what it is like to be part of a hit television show as they Race Across The World

Rutland couple Stephen and Viv Redding are already making a name for themselves on the BBC One show Race Across the World as they compete against four other duos racing 15,000km across seven countries.

During the first episode, which aired on Wednesday last week (April 10), viewers got a glimpse of the pair’s relationship and their relaxed attitude in the race. Although, it was shots of Stephen’s bum which really got tongues wagging on social media as the pair relaxed in an onsen, traditional Japanese bathing facilities, while the other competitors raced towards the first checkpoint.

Stephen and Viv get ready to set off in the opening episode of Race Across The World. Photo: Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds/BBC
Stephen and Viv get ready to set off in the opening episode of Race Across The World. Photo: Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds/BBC

Viv, a mother-of-two, said: “It is such a feel-good and happy show.

“We have watched all the previous series so it was amazing to be involved.”

Applying for the Bafta-winning show was a spur of the moment decision for Stephen and Viv after they locked eyes with each other during an advert appealing for applicants.

Race Across The World series four. From left: Byrdie, Sharon, Stephen, Viv, Eugenie, Isabel, Alfie, Owen, Betty and James.Photo: BBC/Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds
Race Across The World series four. From left: Byrdie, Sharon, Stephen, Viv, Eugenie, Isabel, Alfie, Owen, Betty and James.Photo: BBC/Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds

“As the process got more in depth the excitement built up,” said Stephen, a father-of-five.

While sat in their caravan sheltering from the rain near Framlingham Castle in Suffolk - which inspired Ed Sheeran’s hit single Castle on the Hill - the couple finally received the news they had been selected out of thousands of applicants following a six-week application process consisting of several interviews.

The pair describe themselves as ‘fairly normal and boring’ and likely the ‘token old couple’, but believe previous health issues could be a factor as to why they were chosen.

Stephen and Viv hand over the phones and bankcards in the opening episode of Race Across The World. Photo: Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds/BBC
Stephen and Viv hand over the phones and bankcards in the opening episode of Race Across The World. Photo: Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds/BBC

Stephen suffered a heart attack in 2006 while Viv had a stroke in 2011 which prompted them to start living life to the fullest.

Stephen, 62, said: “We had feelings of what is life about and questioned what we were doing.

“We decided to pack work in and retire early. We thought we might as well enjoy what we have left.”

The couple made the most of their new-found freedom with lots of trips including in their caravan, but they had never ventured so far across the globe until their stint on Race Across the World.

This season sees competitors leave from northernmost Japan and cross six seas and eight borders, skirting the path of the volcanic ring of fire - the most geologically unstable region on the planet - to reach the finish line in Lombok, an idyllic Indonesian island paradise.

It wasn’t until they were about to fly that Stephen and Viv were told their start location of Hokkaido.

Stephen and Viv working at a wasabi farm in the opening episode of Race Across The World. Photo: Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds/BBC
Stephen and Viv working at a wasabi farm in the opening episode of Race Across The World. Photo: Studio Lambert/Pete Dadds/BBC

“I got quite emotional. I didn’t think we would be starting so far away,” said Viv, 66.

The show requires competitors to hand over their smartphones and bank cards, and in return they are given a map and the money it would have cost in plane fares to not only get to the finish line but pay for all their expenses along the way. In the opening episode, competitors were also told Japan’s super fast bullet trains were out of bounds. The first duo over the finish line in the last episode takes home the cash prize of £20,000.

In the modern world going on a trip often means floods of posts on social media or messages to friends and family with updates.

But going off-grid in an era where being contactable 24/7 is the norm proved a challenge for the couple, who are members of a number of clubs in Rutland, including Oakham Tennis Club where Viv is the secretary.

Viv and Stephen in the second episode of Race Across the World. Photo: Studio Lambert/BBC
Viv and Stephen in the second episode of Race Across the World. Photo: Studio Lambert/BBC

Stephen said: “The funny thing is bloke-to-bloke people ask where you are going, you say away and that’s the end of the conversation.

“But women want to know what flight, what clothes, where you are stopping over, where you are flying from.”

The pair came up with a fake story, insisting they were off to visit Stephen’s daughter Sophie who lives in China but the pressure mounted as the pair said they aren’t natural liars.

“In the end I stopped going to tennis from September until it was actually announced,” said Viv.

“The hardest thing was having to lie.”

Stephen in the second episode of Race Across the World. Photo: Studio Lambert/BBC
Stephen in the second episode of Race Across the World. Photo: Studio Lambert/BBC

As sociable people, there were concerns that Viv and Stephen were seriously ill - or that they had been offended by someone.

But it seems all is forgiven as 40 people attended a brunch at the tennis club for Stephen and Viv at the weekend.

“Every single person was so thrilled and really supportive,” said Stephen.

Viv Redding outside Oakham Tennis Club
Viv Redding outside Oakham Tennis Club

During the first episode the couple can be seen taking a relaxed approach - even spending time at a nudist spa which immediately got fans of the show talking after seeing Stephen’s naked behind flash up on the screen.

“Already my bottom is really famous which is not something I planned although, it wasn’t just me. Other people had their bums out too,” joked Stephen, who has gone nude at a spa once before in Austria.

Adding to the challenge, contestants must lug around all of their belongings in a rucksack- and it was less than seven minutes into the opening episode before Stephen declared his body was ‘about to give up’ under the weight of his hefty bag.

Stephen and Viv Redding
Stephen and Viv Redding

It could have been worse though as the bags, which initially weighed nearly 20kg were reduced down to 11kg, when the couple decided to ditch non-essential items and made swaps to lighter items, like Viv selecting microfibre knickers.

Although spending 24/7 with one person could sound like a challenge in itself, Stephen and Viv are well practiced which they think gave them an advantage over other pairs who didn’t live together.

Even in some of the high-pressure situations that faced them, the pair said they didn’t have any major tiffs and it was relying on each other which got them through.

Viv and Stephen Redding
Viv and Stephen Redding

“We knew that neither of us would deliberately make a bad decision,” said Viv.

“When you make a decision you do it with the information you have at the time.”

Stephen and Viv first met 19 years ago while they were both working at Uppingham Community College. They tied the knot in 2012.

“We met in the photocopier room, Stephen had just joined as a teacher in the September.

“We got chatting and hooked up the next year,” said Viv, who worked in the reprographics department.

The pair held a viewing party at their Uppingham home to mark the first episode and despite their self-assured attitude, watching themselves back on the small screen was a strange experience.

For Viv, it wasn’t how she was edited or public opinion which sparked concern - instead it was her hair.

She said: “I am someone who takes a hairdryer with me everywhere, I don’t go out if my hair isn’t done.

“I wanted to look nice at the start but it absolutely poured with rain and I looked like a drowned rat from then.

“I couldn’t believe I was going three weeks without a hairdryer.”

The screening also revealed Viv telling viewers that Stephen can be an ‘acquired taste’ and that people at the tennis club find him ‘loud and unintentionally offensive’, but that she loves him.

Watching it back, Stephen wasn’t offended as he says Viv is not wrong as he is very direct with no filter and some people describe him as ‘on the spectrum’.

“There is no point getting upset,” he said.

“She is gorgeous and the love of my life so there are no problems.”

Despite their relaxed attitude to the race - and a host of memes on social media about them relaxing in a spa when they should have been racing - the opening episode saw the couple come fourth from five as they reached the first checkpoint after five days and 1,600km. Stephen and Viv were only two hours behind the leading pair, something they told camera crews was a “big shock and a boost to our confidence”. The pair also had 79% of their budget remaining while some of the other pairs, which include a brother and sister, two mother and daughter duos and best friends, had burned through a bigger portion of their money.

The pair describes their time filming as ‘genuinely exhausting’ but up there with one of their top life experiences.

It has changed their opinion of travelling and they now hope to be more spontaneous when visiting new countries. Viv even said she will lower her standards when it comes to needing a hairdryer!

The next episode of Race Across the World will air on BBC One at 9pm today (Wednesday, April 17) and follow teams as they cross the border into South Korea.



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