Running the show

Race Across the World star Emon Choudhury is a man on a mission and he wants to take people with him

Hero image

If someone attains a certain level of fame by a combination of triumphing in a speed-based competition and by giving away most of the winnings for children’s charities, a charity running challenge might not be a surprising next move.

He’s got help from his opponents, or fellow cast members – reality TV is a strange concept

But Emon Choudhury is still getting his head around running. The constant effort to lace up the trainers and get out there, rain or shine. The constant nagging guilt every time you eat something indulgent. It’s not where he’s come from.

Regardless, it’s where he’s at. Over the course of a few upcoming weeks he’s leading a series of challenges that will hopefully see his team raise £100,000 to build a school in Nepal, with Choudhury’s attempt at the London Marathon being the centrepiece.

“Oh, it’s a long way, isn’t it? I’ve never really been a runner at all, until four months ago. Especially with those two lockdowns, I just put on loads of weight watching Netflix. But once I got into it,
I started getting energised.”

We’re talking over Zoom in late August, two days after Choudhury’s completed his longest training run yet, clocking up 18 miles. It’s not been quick, he says, but that’s not the point.

A hundred grand is no small target, and the hope is that Choudhury’s profile across social media, West Yorkshire where he lives and Greater Manchester where he grew up, will see him over
the top.

He’s got help from his one-time opponents, or to put it another way, fellow cast members – reality TV is a strange concept. A team of 40, including six from series one and four from
series two of Race Across the World, will take on individual targets at the Manchester 10k on 26 September.

Other efforts contributing to the overall goal include his nephew and TV team-mate Jamiul’s 300km skateboarding challenge, which he took on over the course of August.

How did we get here? Bafta-nominated Race Across the World’s second series was a ratings smash in spring 2020.

The format is simple: four pairs meet up in location A – this time Chaputle Castle in Mexico City – and are given a certain amount of cash. The winner is the first team to reach location B, this time Ushuia, the bottommost tip of Argentina. That’s 25,000km with seven checkpoints en route.

They don’t have much cash, so have to budget carefully, scrimp on meals, travel and accommodation, and find work in a few locations en route.

As the pandemic spread rapidly across the globe and governments locked down at varying speeds and with varying success, RATW provided the perfect Sunday night escapism.

It always felt like there was a sense of peril as the teams converged on each checkpoint. There were incredible landscapes and seascapes.

Viewers fell in love with pretty much all the characters as, exhausted and emotional, they revealed their innermost personalities, giving air to some genuinely touching back stories.

Fans picked favourites, but largely it felt positive, rather than descending into the hateful stuff some reality TV contestants are targeted with.

Choudhury entered with his nephew, an architecture student. They’d never been particularly close before for one reason or another – age, geography, family stuff – but got to know each other better and understand each other throughout the show, Yes, of course reality TV is emotionally manipulative, but bloody hell it can be good.

Always strongly fancied due to Choudhury’s experience in travelling, the pair did win the series – although only just – but then announced they were giving half the winnings to a charity for street kids in São Paolo, having been dumbstruck by the sight and plight of these kids amid the journey (a further quarter of the cash went to an orphanage in Bangladesh).

The critics were mostly on side. The Guardian’s Joel Golby described RATW as “astounding TV”, adding that it made viewers “genuinely care about how it ends and the impact it will have on the lives of those who lived it”.

Nepal is not a random choice for Choudhury’s latest charitable project. “I travelled to Nepal about 15 years ago and just fell in love with the country and the people. I’ve seen the poverty up close. I’ve always donated money in bits, but I always said I’d go back and I’ve always wanted to do more. Sending money is one thing, but becoming really involved in something is so much more rewarding.”

Choudhury isn’t a builder – he has his own business selling car accessories – so to make the project a reality he’s teamed up with Orphans in Need, an international charity with the necessary expertise and reach.

“They’ve built schools all over the world and they’ve got the site sorted. I just need to raise the money! The plan is to live-stream the whole project, from the first stone or brick laid to the grand opening. I want people to feel involved.”

The actual running, as it goes, seems to be going well. Much as with his keenness to get people involved once the school build starts, it’s easy to get involved with Choudhury’s running, with regular videos posted to Instagram from his training routes.

If he can stay fit, he should make it. The adrenaline uplift provided by the prospect of being able to compete in the world’s biggest marathon has often helped give a second wind to those faltering. The first really public test will come with that Manchester 10k, when the RATW team will meet beforehand at the Sadagar, the restaurant owned by Choudhury’s dad in Gatley, and reconvene afterwards for a (hopefully) celebratory buffet. Jo and Sam Gardiner, the heroic and stoic mother-and-son pair from RATW series two, also based in that part of Stockport, are on the team.

Choudhury’s certainly come a long way since he streamed his initial runs, which he took on as a Ramadan challenge, running between 7km and 10km every day for the holy month, while fasting in daylight hours.

The kit’s got smarter since then, too, and the improvement is visible. As he said in one recent video, “the furthest I’d ever run was to my local kebab shop before they closed”. You wouldn’t think that now.

People have already helped and been helped. He says: “From the start, it’s been a very open thing. I was posting my videos, and people noticed I always did the same route, and suddenly I had people who were also fasting joining me on the runs – we had about 12 people by the end. It was great fun.”

Emon Choudhury’s Justgiving page is at

Photo: Choudhury (left) and his nephew Jamiul

Interact: Responses to Running the show

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.