Above: Eventual winners Jack McKendrick (No. 21), carrying his wife Kirsty Jones, neck-and-neck with fellow competitors at the hay-bale hurdles at the UK Wife Carrying Race 2017 in Dorking, Surrey.
Wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, which can lead to any one or more of the following injuries: slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fracture, hernias, and other sundry injuries and illnesses, and potentially including death.
But please don’t let this put you off!
Run over a course of 380m, with 15m of ascent and 15m of descent. VERY TOUGH!
Wife carrying originated in the UK over twelve centuries ago, on 8 June 793AD, when Viking raiders rampaged into Lindisfarne on the northeast coast of what is now England, destroying the monastary and most likely carrying off any unwilling local wenches. Such wife carrying (-off) continued intermittently for around 300 years. Wife Carrying was re-introduced into the UK by the UK Wife Carrying Race in 2008, after an absence from these shores of nearly 900 years.
International competitors welcome: Special category (and prizes) for international competitors!
UK Wife Carrying Race Rules
- Only the carrier has to enter the race.
- Males or females carry a ‘wife’ (who must be at least 18 and can be male or female, and does not need to be the carrier’s wife). All those carried must wear a helmet.
- There is a weigh-in prior to the start: All ‘wives’ must weigh at least 50kg. Anyone under-weight will be obliged to wear a rucksack filled with tins of baked beans or similar to bring them to the required weight.
- All entrants will start off at the same time, and the first over the line is the winner. However, there will be time penalties for dropping the ‘wife.’
- Obstacles and water hazards will be included. Spectators are encouraged to attend with their own water-pistols and buckets of water to staff the ‘Splash Zone’ (return leg only – something for the competitors to look forward to!).
- The winner of the UK Wife Carrying Race will win a barrel of Pilgrim Ale and win £250 towards their expenses in representing Britain and competing in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland in July.*
- Last placed finishers receive the ceremonial Pot Noodle and dog food.
- The carrier who completes the course with the heaviest wife will win a pound of sausages (for strength) and a ceremonial pat on the back from the other carriers.
- You can use any one of the many recognised holds: bridal carry, piggy-back, shoulder-ride, fireman’s carry (across the shoulders), the well-recognised and very fast Estonian Hold (wife hangs upside-down on man’s back, legs crossed in front of the man’s face) or the not-so-fast but unique Dorking Hold (the reverse Estonian).
- *Winners of the UK race who go on to become participants in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland are requested to provide a write-up and photos to the UK race.
It is heartening to see such an old tradition revived, yes it is ridiculous, but also great fun, and anything that sticks two fingers up to the PC brigade gets my full backing.