Over fifty men happily sling their wives or partners over their shoulders and run off into the race. An hour-long gruel through the Finnish town of Sonkajarvi and thousands of fans will be cheering them on. This is the extreme sport of wife-carrying in Finland. The World Wife Carrying Championships is now well into its 25th season and has an international following.
We even find countries qualifying from abroad such as the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, and Estonia. The organizers say there are regularly athletes from over 50 different countries entering the race. It originates from a 19th-century legend called Ronkainen the Robber, who asked aspiring gang members to carry live pigs over an obstacle to test their stamina. It is also thought to have been inspired by the practice of wife-stealing, which happened thousands of years ago in the region. This has led to many contestants entering the race using someone else’s wife.
The race is not just a simple run, there are obstacles to get over and you have to wade through a slippery pool. Some contestants take it more for fun and dress up in disguises. However, for several of the wife carriers, this is a big deal. Taisto Miettinen, a Finn, is a six times world champion and he trains all year for the wife carrying competition. However, more recently a Lithuanian couple Vytautas and Neringa Kirkliauskiene have been taking the crown.
Finland is no stranger to hosting bizarre sporting competitions. Perhaps because it is so close to the arctic circle and faces many months of cold dark winters. You can also find that it is home to the World Boot Throwing competition, along with the air guitar championships. Or perhaps even better the world mobile phone throwing competition.
Most likely because they only have three months of great sunlight per year during the summertime, the Finns have to enjoy every single moment of it to the max.