For most people, it’s enough to have one full-time-plus job, especially if that job requires you to fly around the world, be on TV at any and all hours and get very little sleep.
But hosting CBS’ The Amazing Race – now in its 14th iteration since the show premiered in 2001 – is just the beginning for Phil Keoghan.
In 2004, he published No Opportunity Wasted, a book that espouses a “live your life like each day was your last” philosophy. He then turned that book into a TV show that airs in New Zealand, Canada and on the Discovery Channel in the U.S.
And right now, Keoghan is riding his bike across America to raise money for multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the autoimmune system attacks the central nervous system, eventually causing severe disability.
First, a little background on Phil. He’s used to living all over the world. Growing up, he lived in his native New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean. Now 41, he’s been on TV since he was 19, starring on the New Zealand TV show, Spot On. He also was 19 when he had a near-death experience while scuba diving. When he emerged, instead of vowing to never dive again, he developed the carpe diem philosophy that would guide the rest of his life. He went back and successfully completed the dive the next day.
In 2001, he was named host of The Amazing Race, a gig that’s gone on longer than anyone could have expected. Phil was a contender to host Survivor, a job that ultimately went to Jeff Probst. In the end, both jobs went to the right guys.
One of Phil’s goals has always been to accomplish a major physical feat. Since he can’t just do things like other people, something small like a marathon or an Ironman wasn’t enough for him. He decided to ride his bike across the entire country. From conception to departure, the entire plan came together in just three months.
Phil was inspired by his 2004 book tour in which he and his father, John, drove to ten cities in ten days to promote “No Opportunity Wasted.” The experience was exhausting, he says, but also “one of the best of my life.” The book tour ended up driving sales of the book to number 35 on Amazon in ten days, improving ratings for The Amazing Race and scoring Phil three bookings on Oprah. The whole endeavor cost $5,000. It was successful enough that CBS sat up and took notice.
This time around, the operation is much larger. Phil’s dad, John, is back as the driver, but everything else is more complex. Even though Phil has some financial support, the whole thing is costing half a million dollars with some $100,000 coming directly out of Phil’s pocket.
He has landed some sponsors. GNC is both serving as a sponsor and as a marketing sponsor. Phil fell in love with some meal-replacement bars he found in New Zealand and brought them back to the states. Called One Square Meal, each packet offers 670 calories – exactly one-third of the 2,000 calories most people need in a day – of balanced nutrition. GNC is Phil’s marketing partner for the product, and together the two are using the tour to promote the bars. (He tried to convince me that I could use these bars in my own life, while I tried to convince him that I was not eating anything that told me upfront that it contained 670 calories unless I had just completed two back-to-back marathons. When overeating in other arenas, I cannot see the calories so that doesn’t count.)
Phil has set an intense schedule for himself – he started from Los Angeles on March 28 and he’s riding until May 9, when he plans to finish up with a victory lap in Manhattan. When I met with him at the Marriott Residence Inn – another one of the ride’s sponsors – in Denver on Friday, he’d just completed 13 century rides in a row. That’s 1,300 miles in 13 days, including a serious ascent over Wolf Creek pass in southwestern Colorado. He then had to get up at 6 a.m. and sit in his hotel closet to record voiceovers for The Amazing Race, which is still in production. That’s the difference between Phil and me. He espouses philosophies like No Opportunity Wasted and I espouse philosophies like Sleep While You Can.
CBS Publicity was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to join him on his ride from Fairplay into Denver, but I acknowledged my own wimpiness and said no. That was the right decision – the ride into Denver included 18 degree temperatures and winds that had Phil riding his bike at about a 45 degree angle. He also encountered one of our awesome Colorado drivers (what’s wrong with tailgating during a blizzard at 60 miles an hour?) and was nearly taken out.
(You can watch Phil talking about all these things on his Daily Video blog, which is here. The Fairplay to Denver leg is Day 13.)
Since Phil left Denver, he’s made his way through the incredibly boring flats of Eastern Colorado and is now in McCook, Nebraska. You can track his whereabouts through this handy Web page. And through the magic of social networking, you can also follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
Phil’s got about three and a half weeks to go. If your life has been touched by MS or if you just think Phil is so crazy that you want to give him some money, you can donate to his cause here.