Alumna stars in pre-pandemic National Geographic global adventure series

Mindy Murphy and Team North America with backpacks

Mindy Murphy, right, competed in “Race to the Center of the Earth” with her coworkers and friends, Dave Bacon, left, and Paul Montague Jr., as Team North America. Photo courtesy National Geographic

Like many Coloradans, Mindy Murphy is an avid outdoor athlete: She spends her spare time running, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and skiing. She considers herself a dedicated sportswoman, but not an extreme athlete.

Yet the Colorado State University alumna recently finished the outdoor challenge of a lifetime – and millions of television viewers soon will see just how adventurous she is.

Murphy and two teammates competed in an adrenaline-fueled endurance competition filmed for a new National Geographic television series, called Race to the Center of the Earth. The seven-part series will premiere March 29.

“It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” said Murphy, who lives in metro Denver. She graduated from CSU in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “It was not just physically challenging, but mentally challenging.”

Murphy, 48, is a senior manager for BWBacon Group, a Denver-based technical recruiting agency that helps companies grow their teams with full-time or contract employees. Her race teammates are close colleagues at the agency.

Powerful life lessons

Competing in Race to the Center of the Earth delivered powerful life lessons, especially meaningful for a middle-ager – even one who’s already gutsy and fun-loving.

“It reminded me how important it is to love life and to live life every day with a spirit of adventure,” said Murphy, who grew up in Cañon City, Colorado. “I saw that I can do anything I set my mind to, and I can do things maybe I wouldn’t normally think to achieve. It was a big and humbling reminder that our life and experience in this world is short, and it’s important to get out and have some adventure.”

She added: “It was such a blessing around what’s possible and what we can accomplish.”

During the non-elimination race, four teams of three surmounted a grueling series of challenges using their grit, teamwork and outdoors skills. The teams started on different continents and raced in two stages, all to the same destination – a buoy on a body of water, described in a promotional video as situated “at the center of the Earth” and “hiding a life-changing payday.”

The first team to reach the bobbing yellow buoy claimed a $1 million prize.

Murphy and other competitors agreed not to discuss race details – or to reveal the victors – until the series finale. The action occurred in Fall 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In promo materials, National Geographic said Murphy’s team trekked through the wilderness of Canada. Other teams raced through parts of South America, Russia, and Southeast Asia.

Producers of Race to the Center of the Earth also created The Amazing Race, a similar global reality series, which airs on CBS and has won multiple Emmy Awards.

Abilities put to the test

Mindy Murphy Climbing
In one of her most challenging feats, Murphy scaled the Big Wall at Cape Trinity, in Saguenay Fjord National Park in Quebec. Photo by Tim McAllister/National Geographic

Murphy said the contest put her abilities to the test – all on camera. A teaser video shows competitors mountain biking, horseback riding, trail running, rock climbing, river rafting, sea kayaking, and more. The settings are breathtaking and forbidding, ranging from a desert to mountain snowfields.

Her involvement was a fluke: The show’s casting agents spotted an Instagram post made by Murphy’s coworker, Paul Montague Jr., a skilled rock-climber, former collegiate gymnast and one of Murphy’s good friends. Soon, her team of three outdoor enthusiasts signed on for the National Geographic production. Dave Bacon, founder and CEO of BWBacon Group, filled the team’s other spot.

“It was incredibly galvanizing, wildly entertaining, and just so much stinking fun,” Bacon recounted in a LinkedIn post. “The actual race took place in what feels like a bygone era before the pandemic, October 2019. We left our work and families for a full month with zero – I mean zero – communications, and now that the show is finally airing, it’s like opening up a time capsule of this incredible experience to the world.”

Each of their challenges was a surprise. That made the finish even more meaningful, Murphy said.

She hopes the series inspires or renews a sense of confidence and fearlessness among viewers, much as it did for her.

“For me, an important takeaway is: Make sure you’re living your life the way you want to be living it and where you want to be living it,” Murphy said. “Make sure you’re doing something you enjoy.”