After roughly 30 days of globetrotting, running, sleep deprivation, hunger, thirst and general chaos, Richmond native and Olympic medalist Kellie Wells-Brinkley gained more of an appreciation for the small things in life.
The James River High grad was a contestant on season 32 of CBS’ Emmy-winning adventure reality game show, “The Amazing Race.” The show was filmed in November 2018 and is set to premiere Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Wells-Brinkley, 38, hopes her experience can help spread joy amid turbulent times.
“I’m really excited to share the journey with the people I love, with the world,” she said. “Maybe it will give them a couple smiles in a time where stuff is so complicated in our world.”
Wells-Brinkley’s partner on the show is one of her best friends, LaVonne Idlette. The pair attended Hampton University together, and both competed at the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s 100-meter hurdles — Wells-Brinkley won bronze. Idlette, a Hampton native, ran for the Dominican Republic.
The two text often but rarely call — Idlette is based in Miami, Wells-Brinkley in Houston. So when Idlette’s name popped up as an incoming call more than two years ago, a surprised Wells-Brinkley asked, “Who died?”
But the call was to gauge Wells-Brinkley’s interest in competing on the show — Idlette’s cousin had connections in Hollywood. Later that night, the two made an audition video, and the producers “loved it,” Wells-Brinkley said.
They were fast-tracked to in-person casting and flew to Los Angeles the next week.
“It’s literally the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life, by far,” Wells-Brinkley said.
Idlette was one of her bridesmaids, and Wells-Brinkley attended Idlette’s graduation from law school.
“We’ve been with each other through every major step of life,” she said. “So it was very fitting that we did this together.”
She couldn’t disclose specifics about the month-long journey because the show has yet to air. But contestants on “The Amazing Race” typically travel tens of thousands of miles in a nonstop competition spanning multiple continents. The race includes adrenaline-inducing activities such as skydiving and mountain climbing — 11 teams of two navigate a variety of challenges and obstacles as they vie for the $1 million grand prize.
Wells-Brinkley, Idlette and the rest of the teams were totally cut off from the outside world — no phones, computers or credit cards.
“That was the hardest part for me, being cut off from family,” she said.
Wells-Brinkley, who has a 4-year-old son, has a self-described “wanderlust” and sometimes misses the competitive outlet of professional track and field in addition to the travel associated with global competition. So the show served as an opportunity to recapture elements of that lifestyle.
“I went from traveling the world, jet-setting, getting on a plane in a matter of minutes to fly across the world to mom life, wife life, diapers,” she said with a chuckle.
“As much as I do love it, I definitely miss the element of competition — I miss different cultures, different foods, learning different languages. So this was kind of like the perfect meld of the two, but wrapped up into a crazy way of doing it.”
Contestants on the show aren’t given any indication of what they’re about to face until it’s right in front of them. Wells-Brinkley is used to a regimented schedule, so the haphazard nature of the competition spiced things up a bit, she said.
Wells-Brinkley has not flown since early March because of the pandemic. She was used to traveling a lot but has been “stuck inside” and social distancing these days. The show will give her an outlet to relive an extreme version of the adventurous lifestyle she’d become accustomed to, and she hopes it can likewise provide viewers a distraction from pandemic-induced confinement.
“People will be able to live their travel dreams through watching all of these episodes, which is going to be great,” she said. “I’ll get to relive jumping on planes and doing wild and crazy stuff through the show. So I hope it brings people a little bit more freedom by watching it as well.”
Although she’s watched herself on TV many times, Wells-Brinkley is nervous to see herself in such a chaotic setting, in part because it’s been so long since the show was filmed. CBS initially scheduled the premiere for May 20, then moved it back to offset holes in its fall schedule caused by the pandemic.
But she is excited for friends and family, many of whom — aunts, uncles, cousins — live in the Richmond area, to share in her experience. Wells-Brinkley typically visits her hometown often but hasn’t been able to amid coronavirus concerns.
“I miss home,” she said, before adding she hopes to visit in the next couple months.
After its premiere, “The Amazing Race” will move to its regular time slot on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m.