‘Our grandchildren spurred us on’ says Race Across the World champions Tony and Elaine
Grandparents Tony and Elaine Teasdale are settling back into everyday life with a new perspective only a handful of others can appreciate. The 62-year-olds emerged champions in the recent BBC television show Race Across the World, competing against four other pairs to complete a 12,000 mile journey to Singapore without taking a single flight.
The retired teachers, from Beadlam near Helmsley in North Yorkshire, entered the competition as reserves in episode one, when another team had to pull out. With just £1,329 each, they had to navigate five checkpoints en-route to their final destination, taking them across 21 countries including Greece, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, China and Cambodia. It was a journey, Tony says, that they will take to the grave.
“We visited some of the world’s most beautiful locations and en route met some wonderful people. Without them, we wouldn’t have got there.
“We are chuffed to bits,” he adds. “I have no doubt there will be several series [of the show] and for the first one to be sitting in Yorkshire is brilliant.”
In fact, it was an all-Yorkshire finish, with Bradford father and son pair Darron Speck and Alex Speck-Zolte taking second place. “Both teams knew we were in it to win it,” Elaine says. “We had such good banter. It was quite special and it really spurred us on.”
Each time teams reached a new checkpoint, they had to sign their arrival time in a book. “I felt sick before we opened the book but when we saw it was empty, it was complete disbelief. We kept turning the pages thinking we had got the wrong one. When we realised, we were ecstatic.”
It was a victory that made them £20,000 richer - though most of that is now accounted for. Each of their three children Hannah, Katie and Christopher have taken a share for their families, whilst some was donated to charities and local causes, and they still plan to get an electric bike each.
It was an experience too that has gained them recognition. “We can’t go out of the house because we get recognised all the time,” Elaine says whilst Tony talks of cards and messages coming through the door. Both have been congratulated by former colleagues and students from their teaching days at schools in York.
The pair, who met doing teacher training in London, have been married for four decades - though when asked whether the race tested their relationship, Tony joked about the divorce papers coming through. “With 40 years of marriage you can cut through the rubbish and tell each other what’s what,” he says. “You get over things quickly, otherwise it would jeopardise the race,” Elaine chips in.
The couple, the oldest in the race, watched the finale show surrounded by their family. Before their adventure their five grandchildren had presented them with a coin with a number one on one side and a heart on the other. “They thought we had the potential to come first,” explains Elaine.
“We thought they were going to be disappointed because all the other competitors were young and more experienced travellers. But in their little eyes they really had faith in us and that spurred us on.”
The couple, who did a stint of backpacking when they first married, wanted to follow in the footsteps of their children, who took time out to travel. “To actually put the rucksacks back on the old back again was a thrill of turning the clocks back really,” Tony says. “And when everyone else struggled with no phones and internet (one of the show’s rules), it was second nature to us because we spent a lot of years without any of that.”
The experience has thrown a new dimension their way, he says. They hope to see more of the world - and not in luxury hotels. “It becomes like a drug going place to place.”