Catherine Wreford and Craig Ramsay had already faced a hurdle tougher than any reality show challenge when the 25-year-old friends emerged on Season 8 of The Amazing Race Canada.
When 42-year-old Winnipeg-born Wreford was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a malignant brain tumor, in 2013, she was told she had between two and six years to live.
“I wanted to show anyone who has something that’s an obstacle they can overcome,” Wreford says during a phone interview. “They, too, can muster the courage to tear down the walls that stand in front of them.”
Ramsay, 45, of Windsor, Ontario, who supported her before and after the race, felt the same way.
“Our reason for running the race itself was that Catherine might have limited time here,” says Ramsay. “She has inspired people all her life and now even more so, I wanted her to stay in this race as long as possible to show as much of Catherine’s story as possible.”
On Tuesday, Wreford and Ramsay were declared winners on CTV’s Northern edition of the reality show, in which 10 teams race across Canada and complete a mighty catalog of challenges to win a $250,000 cash prize and two Chevrolet Silverado ZR2s .
CLOCK | Wreford and Ramsay talk about their challenges:
Runners-up were siblings Jesse and Marika of Canmore, Alta.; sisters Franca and Nella from Edmonton; and brothers Brendan and Connor of Parry Sound, Ontario.
“I am 45 years old. Together, Wreford and I are of an age that far surpasses previous winners,” says Ramsay, who first met Wreford at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
“With the Amazing raceit was an opportunity to step in and show what support for a friend going through a terrible diagnosis is and often looks like.”
Both contestants had to bring a unique bag of tricks to win it all in a fierce competition. Fitness experts aside, Ramsay, who’s also an author, TV personality, and a staunch, outspoken member of the LGBTQ community, says he has a photographic memory. Wreford added her important skills of a mathematician and former nursing student.
“There are so many skills that make a versatile film, television and singing actor,” says Ramsay, adding to the list the fact that his friend Wreford owned a mortgage company. “We had so many skills that no one knew about and that surprised other teams.”
This season, all 10 teams started in Mont-Tremblant, Que., and made their way to 24 cities with over 12,000 miles of coast-to-coast travel.
Over the past half decade, this geographic lineup and many others like it have defined the long-running series built on the appeal of the great outdoors. But over the course of Season 8, showrunner Mark Lysakowski, like many others in the film and television industry, felt the difficult challenges the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly brought.
“It’s been a very stressful time for me as a television producer,” says Lysakowski, who encountered numerous delays to the series’ originally scheduled premiere in 2020, which was further delayed in 2021 ahead of its 2022 debut. He also saw candidates like Wreford and Ramsay sidelined due to their own positive tests.
“I had to put things into perspective. This was just another TV show alongside people dying around the world,” adds Lysakowski, who understandably prioritized stopping a viral spread over concerns about lower ratings during production delays.
As a result, the three previously COVID-positive teams, including Wreford and Ramsay, were given the opportunity to return to racing.
“We were over the moon when the 2020 pandemic was invited to return, but it was terrifying for us,” says Ramsay. “We would never want any of the teams to ever have to go through what we did in the future.”
“Expiry Date Exceeded”
According to Lysakowski, the challenges posed by COVID-19 still haven’t stopped the show from rewarding two people he sees as the embodiment of competition and a difficult time.
“Catherine’s story is filled with emotion because, as she says, she’s passed her sell-by date,” says Lysakowski. “It’s her resilience as a human being, but her ability to face this adventure and tell her story that gives people hope and something to wish for.”
The winning team used Wreford’s story as motivation to keep moving throughout the competition.
“Having those years of struggle and the opportunity to revisit that goal of ours as best friends was worth it,” says Ramsay. “We hope Canadians will take a look and take this opportunity to meet up with their friends and create special memories together.”
As with many things Ramsay says, Wreford tends to agree.
“This competition was all about trust. I trust him 100 percent and I know he trusts me,” she adds. “When you have that, the world is your oyster.”