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What Couples Will Do for Beer – The Sport of Wife Carrying

Updated on June 12, 2011

Maybe you carried your wife over the threshold of your home when you were first married. That’s mere childsplay for the men and women who compete in the extreme sport of Wife Carrying.

This sport, which began in Finland, is now played all over the world. Other athletes can look forward to multimillion dollar contracts and Nike endorsements. But wife carrying contestants play for the beer. That’s because the winner is awarded his wife’s weight in beer.

So read on and decide if you and your wife want to get in on the action and fill your fridge with beer.

Wife Carrying Practice by thunderpete, on Flickr
Wife Carrying Practice by thunderpete, on Flickr | Source

How it Began

There are two theories about the beginnings of Wife Carrying.

Story 1: In this story, in the late 1800s, in Finland, stealing women from close by villages was a common practice. According to this story, wife carrying is the politically correct version of wife stealing. It makes sense to me, because Finland is a very cold place and running back and forth between villages seems like a good way to keep from freezing.

Story 2: In this story, at around the same time in Finland, an outlaw named Rosvo-Ronkainen robbed houses in neighboring villages and, of course, stole women.

Obviously, stealing women seems to have played an important role in Finnish history. But since the sport of Wife Carrying first started in 1992, both stories are probably fake. Nevertheless, let’s have a beer in honor of whatever story is true.

Wife Carrying Rules

The rules are pretty simple, so sit back, have a beer, and read ‘em.

  1. The official track is 253.5 meters. For us Americans, that means 832 feet, or 273 yards, or just over an eighth of a mile, or almost three football fields.
  2. The track has three obstacles – two dry ones and one water, all about 1 meter high or deep. In U.S. talk, that’s about 3 feet.
  3. The wife may be carried piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder), or Estonian-style, in which the wife hangs upside down on her husband’s back, with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding on to his waist. (See above photo.) You’ve got to excuse the Estonians -- all those years being controlled by the communists turned their world upside down.
  4. The woman being carried does not have to be the man’s wife. If you’re going to tell your wife you’ll be carrying another woman in the Wife Carrying contest, I suggest you first drink a lot of beer and be ready to run about 5 football fields.
  5. The woman being carried has to be at least 49 kilos. In normal talk, that means 108 pounds. (Just joking, you metric-heads. In fact, I’ll have another beer in honor of the metric system!)
  6. A belt is the only equipment allowed the person doing the carrying. Helmets are recommended for the person being carried if they want to be healthy enough to drink all the beer they win.
  7. There is a 15 second fine for every time someone drops the woman he’s carrying. And if you drop her more than once, you can be sure there will be additional hell to pay when the race is over.
  8. Whichever couple (husband and wife or whoever) finishes the course in the shortest time is the winner.

And don’t forget, whoever wins, gets their wife’s weight in beer. Let’s drink a beer to that!

World Championships

Wife Carrying is now played around the world. A Maine ski resort hosts the North American Wife Carrying Championships, with the winners being invited to compete in the World Championships.

World Championships are held once a year in the Finnish village of Sonkajaervi, located some 490 kilometers north of Helsinki. For those of us who drive in the U.S., that’s 302 miles.

People come from all over the world including Canada, Ireland, Poland, and Australia to compete. The winners are the fastest couple to cross the “Finnish Line.” (No, I’m not making this up!)

In case you were wondering, the record for Wife Carrying is 55.5 seconds (in 2002) held by two people from, where else but, Estonia. Now let’s have a beer in their honor!

Question: Does anyone remember how many beers I’ve drunk, because I’m feeling a bit tipsy.

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