Amani and Marcus Pollard of Pine Mountain, Georgia, this past season’s contestants on CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” had their fair share of joy and stress as they competed against other teams for a cash prize of one million dollars.
But these two are no strangers to hard work and multi-tasking. Besides being the parents of four children, Amani is also the owner of Maize N Grace boutique in LaGrange, while Marcus played professional football in the NFL for 14 years (including the Atlanta Falcons) and is currently a high school football coach.
With so much going on, they did not intend to enter the show together, however, fate had a different plan. “Initially Marcus was applying with an old teammate. That fell through and that’s when the idea of us running the race together came in to play,” Amani explains. “Our first child was a honeymoon baby, so we entered into our marriage running (after kids anyway). We thought this would be an excellent opportunity to travel the world, really have some one-on-one time and because we are both very competitive, we thought we had a really good chance at winning the race.”
The couple felt that a combination of being competitive, strong, having great communication and a “don’t quit” motto would be their biggest assets going into the race – and they were right. When they weren’t challenging themselves, they were cheering each other on and encouraging each other to never give up, no matter how difficult the task they faced.
Besides winning, they had other goals they wanted to accomplish by competing. “(I wanted) to see how good of a team we could be together in a competitive and stressful competition,” Marcus says. Amani added, “We’ve got four babies. I want them to not only know what a ‘don’t quit’ spirit is, but to see it in action. Although Marcus and I work as a team everyday raising our children and maintaining a healthy and happy marriage, I wanted to shock his socks off too!”
This reality show really puts the meaning of teamwork to the test, and sometimes contestants can crack under the pressure. After racing through four continents and 20 cities, the race drew to a close, and there were only three couples, including the Pollards, left to head back to the final city where new challenges awaited them.
The final destination on the show was Atlanta, and throughout the episode, several couples said that the Pollards would have a hometown advantage. “Knowing the race, there are no real advantages to being from or knowing a city,” Marcus says. Although they were excited to be heading back to Georgia, it offered no such advantage for them, as all three couples struggled with the different challenges they faced in the final home stretch. In the end, the Pollards came in third place, having lost time during the flight simulator challenge. As they crossed the finish line at The Swan House, they both had smiles on their faces and a positive attitude.
“The race is not always given to the swift, but to the ones who endure and we endured!” Marcus says. “Every day is a race, you are going to get tired, you are going to have hurdles, you are going to stumble, you may even fall, but keep racing. You may get discouraged, you may fall behind, but keep racing. People may laugh at you, people may talk about you, but keep racing and when you cross the line you may not finish in first, but you finished the race. This is who we are.”
PHOTOS FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: 1. In this challenge, Marcus must descend 160 feet into Jomblang Cave and search in the dark for a Javanese mask and dagger in order to receive the next clue. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS
2. Amani (left) and Marcus (right) get good news from host Phil Keoghan at the Pit Stop. Photo by Robert Voets/CBS
3. In this challenge, Amani must walk a tightrope 35 stories above Panama City in order to receive the next clue. Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS
More from Amani and Marcus Pollard:
Where did you two meet and how long have you been married?
We met in Atlanta and we’ve been married 10 years. It will be 11 years this May.
What do you believe is the best “recipe” for a successful marriage?
First is faith in God, second is respect and third...whatever you did to get him or her is the same thing you need to do to keep them, and of course, love.
How do you plan on spending this Valentine’s Day?
It sounds terrible but Valentine’s Day isn’t a special day in itself for us. We make Valentine’s Day throughout the year on random days, just because. So this Valentine’s Day we may be playing Scrabble, hunting or at a Broadway play, but don’t put it past us to pull into a parking lot, turn up the music in the car and dance (We’ve done it before)!
What was your reaction when you found out you had been chosen to be on “The Amazing Race”?
Excited is an understatement. There are thousands of applicants each season, it was a huge honor to have made the cut!
What new things did you learn about each other after being on the show?
Marcus: I learned Amani is resilient, dedicated and strong - not just physically, but mentally, and has patience that surpasses all understanding.
Amani: I learned that what I thought was real, is. It’s easy to think everything is great when things are, but take away the comforts of home, throw us in a strange and new environment, take away food and sleep and water. Marcus and I never changed, and I love him more because of it.
What challenges did you face both on the show and within your relationship, and how did you overcome them?
Leaving our kids was the most challenging. Not to take anything away from the race because we all know it had its challenging moments (i.e. the flight simulator), but as a whole, our communication allows us to overcome most challenges. With leaving the kids, communication amongst each other doesn’t solve that. So we had to make the race about the kids, instilling life lessons, and although we were thousands of miles away, making use of those teachable moments helped us conquer that challenge.
How many countries did you see, and what was your favorite country that you visited and experience that you had?
Amani: Wow, it was such a blur - we are racing you know! We’ve talked about this before and we still haven’t come to a concrete answer. Each place had something unique about its culture and people that we loved. It has just heightened our desire to see the world.
Marcus: As for our favorite experiences, the lug-out* (in Malawi) was incredible. Just to be a part of that culture for that brief time was an experience of a lifetime, followed of course by my race car experience (in Brussels, Belgium). Now that’s how you drive! *(The lug-out required teams to unload cargo and passengers from a ferryboat, just like the locals do).
Amani: Dancing at the castle (in Copenhagen, Denmark) was an amazing experience for me. After 14 years of dance, I’m sure my parents were happy to see a return on their investment after all these years. I also really enjoyed my experience at the theatre - that was my acting debut!
What is the accomplishment you are both most proud of?
That we’ve impacted some lives. Since the race, we’ve been greeted daily with hugs, tear-filled eyes and letters simply saying thank you and that we’ve made a difference. We’ve helped a marriage and we’ve encouraged the “don’t quit” spirit. Of course the million in the bank would have been huge, but the response we’ve received has been priceless. We never expected to receive such a warm outpouring of expression and support.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Marcus: Start out how you can hold out, my granddaddy would say.
Amani: My grandma Effie told me, live with no regrets.
What inspires you every day?
Marcus: Amani, our kids and my faith.
Amani: Life is precious and its days are numbered. So many people look back on life saying, “I could have, I should have, I would have.” I want to look back on life and say “I did.” I enjoy the moment, and am inspired by Marcus, our kids Myles, Micah, Aja and Ayris and my faith. Each day is a gift.
Who have been your biggest influences?
Marcus: My mom, because as a young single parent I saw her work and never give up. She worked two and three jobs to provide for me and my sister, and then she went to college as a non-traditional student and graduated with honors and went back for her masters! She is a story of inspiration alone.
Amani: My parents. Even though my parents divorced when I was very young, having a mother as a single parent who sacrificed and worked hard to support and instill values and self worth in me was invaluable. But equally important was having a father who although did not live in my home, was a permanent fixture in my life. He showed me what it was to be loved by a man and how to be treated by one.
Where do you see yourselves five years from now?
Being the winners of the All Star Season. If given the opportunity, we would love the chance to race again.