This weekend, Surrey will be hosting an unusual sprint for athletic couples, as the 13th annual UK Wife Carrying Race takes place in Dorking.
This quirky annual event has taken place in Surrey since 2008, with the first race attracting just three competitors. Since then however, the event has grown in popularity and now has about 50 couples taking part each year.
Unlike the Finnish World Championships, where pairs of carriers run against each other, the UK Wife Carrying Race sees all the couples run against each other in one wild mix of flailing arms and legs. To add to the challenge, the course for the UK race is not flat, so the carriers have to tote their ‘wives’ uphill to the half way point, before running back downhill to the finish line.
To add to the fun, hay bales provide hurdles on both the outward and return legs and a ready supply of volunteers wait with water pistols and buckets of water, to soak the competitors as they near the finish line. Spectators are encouraged to bring their own water pistols, to help out in the ‘splash zone’.
If you are thinking of taking part but you’re not part of a husband and wife partnership, then don’t let this put you off. The UK Wife Carrying Race has now seen all combinations of competitors. Men carrying women, a man carrying a man, and a woman carrying a woman.
There are various carrying styles which competitors can use in the UK Wife Carrying Race. The piggyback (popular, but tiring and not very fast), the bridle carrying (almost impossible to keep up for long), the fireman (across the shoulders), and the shoulder ride (precarious but surprisingly swift).
Finally, there is the Estonian hold, where the ‘wife’ hangs upside down on the man’s back with her legs over his shoulders. This is now the most popular hold used in the competition, as it is swift and relatively comfortable for both the carrier and the ‘wife’.
The UK Wife Carrying Race is staged as part of the warm-up for the popular Leith Hill Half Marathon, ensuring that there is a good turnout of spectators. Some of the wife carriers – and their ‘wives’ – do the Wife Carrying Race and then run the half marathon!
This year, the winners will receive a barrel of local ale, whilst the last placed competitors will win a consolatory tin of dog food and a Pot Noodle. The carrier of the heaviest ‘wife’ will receive a pound of sausages, and the oldest carrier will receive a tin of pilchards and a jar of Bovril. So, all to play for!
When: 29th February 2020, 10.30am
Where: The Nower, Dorking, Surrey
£: It costs £50 for a couple to enter the race. Free to watch
More info: www.trionium.com/wife