As strange as it might sound, wife carrying race is an actual sport. A sport where men sling their wives over their shoulders and run through an obstacle course. The one to finish this obstacle course in the shortest time wins the game. Sounds easy, right Not so!
In 2005, Dennis Rodman, a now-former NBA player took part in this silly, weird sport. However, he was only able to run the last 100 meters declaring that he was not ready for such a “grueling course”. When even professionally trained athletes and NBA players cannot run this wife carrying race, then how can regular people do it?
Worry not, we have the answers to all your curious questions! Here is everything you need to know about the sport of wife carrying.
What is Wife Carrying Race?
It is as simple as it sounds.“Eukonkanto” which literally means “wife carrying” is a Finnish sport where men race through an obstacle course with their wives on their backs. The winner is decided based on who completes this race in the shortest time. The obstacle course consists of muddy pits, water pools, sand, logs, and fences. In some cases, even spectators are encouraged to splash the contestants with water guns attacks of their own.
Although it seems like a silly game, competitors take it very seriously. It started in Finland however, today it has fans all over the world. Mostly wife-carrying race contests take place in the United States, North America, the UK, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Hong Kong, and even India.
History and Origin of Wife Carrying Race
The origin story of the wife carrying race is really interesting. Apparently, it is based on a 19th century tale of a robber named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or Ronkainen the Robber who lived in a forest. Supposedly, he looted the nearby villages with his gang stealing anything they could find, harming the villagers and swinging any unfortunate women they could find over their shoulders, and then running off with them. Pretty crass to turn someone’s misfortune into a game, right?
However, there are two other origin tales about this strange game as well. First, all men in that area would go into neighboring villages and abduct the women they like. Again, carrying them over their shoulders and forcing them to marry. Often, these women were already married. This practice was referred to as “the practice of wife stealing”, hence the tradition that was later turned into a game.
A less unfortunate tale is that Ronkainen trained his gang of thieves to be faster, stronger, and more agile by training them using big, heavy sacks, that these men would carry over their shoulders and run.
Regardless of how exactly it originated, it is true that it began in the Nordic Region. The modern wife carrying race as we know it started in 1992 in Finland. For the first three years, only contestants from Finland participated in it. However, from 1995 onwards, contestants from foreign countries also started taking part in this interesting and fun game.
How to Play? Wife Carrying Rules
If you’re interested in playing this sport as a fun hobby for couples, here are some key rules that you need to know.
Originally, the area where this practice supposedly originated was a rough, rocky terrain with brooks and forests. The wife carrying contests try to emulate these conditions although in a much safer way. As mentioned earlier, the obstacle course is completely man-made with fences to jump over, water pools to swim through and sand to walk across – all while keeping your wife safely on your back!
The official track length for the wife carrying race is 253.5 meters.
The wife needs to be 49kg in weight. If she is not, further weight will be added to the contestants to make everyone equal. It might not be universally true, but for this race boys sure do prefer short girls.
During the earlier years of the game, it was mandatory for the couple competing to be legally married. However, that is no longer the case. You can carry your wife, your friend’s wife, your friend, cousin, sister, or even a local willing lady to be your race partner! (As long as she’s over 18 years old).
Fun Fact: You can even carry two wives simultaneously! Like Joel Hicks in the 2016 UK Wife Carrying Championship.
In fact, recently the man and woman dynamic has also shifted. Traditionally, it was a man carrying a woman on his back. Nevertheless, these days even a woman can carry her man on her shoulders just like BBC presenters Mike Bushell and Steph McGovern who reversed these roles in the 2013 wife carrying competition in the UK.
Likewise, same-sex couples can also participate in this race.
Different Carrying Styles
You can carry your wife any way you want. For example, a classic piggyback or princess carry. A fireman’s carry that is carrying a woman over your shoulder is also popular. However, the most common and most popular carrying stance is the Estonian style, which is carrying the wife upside-down on your back with her legs clutching your head tightly and her arms holding on to your waist.
For the safety of all contestants, the man must wear a belt and the woman must wear a helmet. No other sports equipment is allowed.
How to Play the Wife Carrying Game?
As a rule, all the participants compete with each other two at a time. They run through the 235.5 meters obstacle course. Whoever completes it in the shortest time, wins the game. The final round consists of two players with the shortest run time to determine the winner. However, this also means that you might not qualify for the final round even if you’ve won an earlier round in case your final run time is longer than the other contestants.
In case you drop your wife, you receive a 15 seconds delay penalty. That’s pretty much a death sentence in a game where the average finish time is 59 seconds!
Where do the annual wife carrying championships take place?
Wife carrying championships take place in all the countries that play this sport on an annual basis. Mainly, these championships are held in Australia, North America, the US, the UK, and Asia.
However, there is only one Wife Carrying World Championship that place in Finland every year.
Wife Carrying Competitions Prizes
In Finland, the prize for the Wife Carrying World Championship is the winning wife’s weight in beer. That’s 49kg of excellent beer we’re talking about!
Although, other competitions do hand out cash prizes and other fun prizes as well. For example, the most entertaining pair gets a complementary special prize, which can be anything, from pot noodles to smartphones!
How do you get a Special Prize in the Wife Carrying Competition?
Just be the most fun and entertaining couple of all! You can dress up in cool, funny costumes, give your team a silly name to make everyone laugh out loud, or be the best wife carrier in the field! Anything works as long as you entertain the crowd.
To sum it up, wife carrying race is an interesting game where everything goes for laughs and giggles. It’s an event where everyone gathers to have a good time and win that load of beer! So, why not try this fun game with your partner if you’re in a new relationship? Or perhaps, an old partner will be better because of how much trust and faith it takes for a person to be carried through this grueling course! Regardless, this experience is sure to be a test of faith and leave you with some extraordinary fun memories to last a lifetime!