UK Wife Carrying Championships – Metro April ’13
Commissioned by the Metro, my girlfriend Zayne and I tackled the 6th UK Wife Carrying Championships down in Dorking. You can see the online version here.
Tobias Mews gets to grips the UK Wife Carrying Championships.
‘Are you sure you don’t want to try the fireman’s carry?’ asks my ‘wife’ Zayne, aka my long-suffering girlfriend, as I attempt to lift her over my shoulder so that she’s hanging upside down, facing my bum.
‘It’s got to be more comfortable than this!’ It probably is but, according to my research, the Estonian hold is considered the fastest method of carrying one’s wife.
‘OK, but if I pass out, tell the medics I’ve had an aneurysm,’ Zayne, who’s also a trauma nurse, tells me sternly after our brief practice session moments before the start of the UK Wife Carrying Championships. ‘And whatever you do, don’t you dare fart or drop me on my head.’ Although I can’t guarantee there won’t be any flatulence, I reassure her I have no intention of dropping her on her head.
This is the sixth time the event has taken place and it has steadily gained a reputation as one of Britain’s top adventure races.
It’s a fun spectacle for the runners who turn up for the main event, the Leith Hill Half Marathon, near Dorking, Surrey, but it’s also a precursor to the long-running Wife Carrying World Championships, held every July in the remote Finnish town of Sonkajärvi. The winners of the British race get £500 towards their travel expenses if they decide to head for Finland.
‘At the first one, only three couples turned up,’ says race organiser Rob McCaffrey, ‘but more than 30 couples registered to run today’s race.’
In the end, possibly due to the sub-zero temperature and a sprinkling of snow, only a hardy 23 made it to the start line, although that’s still a record, says McCaffrey.
Being of a naturally competitive nature, I was curious to know the secret to winning. ‘Practice!’ says McCaffrey. ‘That and fitness. It’s a very testing race – even if it’s only 250m long. Oh, and it helps if you’re a big guy and that your partner is very close to the 50kg minimum weight allowed for “wives”.’
During the compulsory weigh-in, I’m relieved to see Zayne is only a fraction over the minimum weight – otherwise we’d have to carry tins of baked beans to make up the difference.
The first half of the course is slightly uphill, which makes jumping over the hay bale obstacles even more difficult. However, rather than complaining, all I can hear from Zayne are giggles of delight.
‘Use your arms, Tobias!’ she calls from somewhere between my legs. Swinging my arms might be easier but I don’t dare let go of her. The ground underfoot is very slippery and, at the turnaround point at the top of the hill, I am reduced to a walk.
‘Come on, Tobias – it’s all downhill from now,’ Zayne cries. But despite my best efforts, running downhill with a woman squeezing your head isn’t as easy it might sound.
With my heart beating like a hunted deer, any bravado quickly disappears. This is not going to be an easy finish – especially after we have buckets of freezing water thrown over us.
Crossing the finish line in sixth place, I manage to grab a word with the winning couple, Matt Witcock and Lindsey Finn. Witcock says he entered the race because he ‘can’t sing or dance and it looked like a good laugh. I’m always keen to try random challenges.’
Finn, a last-minute stand-in, confesses: ‘If I’d known it was going to be quite so painful, I might not have done it’.
The last couple across the line, and winners of the ceremonial Pot Noodle and tin of dog food, are BBC Breakfast presenters Stephanie McGovern and Mike Bushell – in role-reversal mode.
In the words of Witcock: ‘Life’s becoming too serious these days so it’s great to have opportunities to get out there and try something different and, above all, have a laugh with it.’ And you never know – it might even be good for your relationship.
Published in the Metro and online on Monday 8th April 2013