Sporting contests to remember: Run Hubby Run
The best thing about sport is that it’s not predictable. It may be good or bad and maybe, at times, simply weird, but it’s extremely entertaining.
Which is what I realized when one late Saturday night in an extended session of channel-surfing, I saw a man huffing and puffing with two female legs entwining his head. Before you start getting agitated (or excited), let me clarify – through sheer good fortune, I had managed to stumble upon the North American Wife Carrying Championships.
I saw a respectable gentleman wearing a number on his chest and carrying a female passenger upside-down with her legs around his head and her hands clinging on for dear life to his chest through his armpits. Presumably she did not have the best view in the house, but her greater concerns were obviously the obstacles in the way and fifty other “teams”, as the commentator informed us.
As I watched enthralled, the commentator rambled on about the legend of the “Estonian carry”. The most popular method of carrying your “weight”, which has been used by all winners till date, the Estonian carry was used by Estonians (who else?) to steal wives (!) from Finnish villages and run back to Estonia as fast as they could.
And in the middle of all this, we were informed that we had a winner – a pair of winners to be politically correct. A Finnish couple from Helsinki – Taisto Miettinen and Kristina Haapanen – had (aptly) crossed the finish line first. And, in a classic case of revenge being best served cold (which it must have been, given the drenching the poor wife got in the pond), they had done it the Estonian way. Apparently they were the best in the business – they had won the World Championships of the event (yes, you read that right) four years in a row starting from 2009.
The highlights gave me more breathing space to take in the turn of events. I realized that this was no mean feat – navigating close to 300 yards with a hundred pounds on your shoulders (apologies to Ms. Haapanen for putting this fact across so bluntly) through hurdles, which had interesting names such as the Widow Maker (a small water hole) and the Sand Mountain (a not-so-deadly sand trap) in 50 seconds or so. In a post-event conference, the runners-up told the audience that they had trained all year long for those 50 seconds of fame.
The best part of the whole event was probably the prize money. As the winners ascended the podium, they were given a cheque of $530 (five times the weight of the “wife”) and a promise of a 106 pounds of beer. Some wives are worth their weight in gold; some in liquor.
So the journey from the water hole to the watering hole ended here as the winner, in a conservative bid to protect his liver, took a pledge to share his liquid earnings with the second and third place finishers. Before signing off, the commentator reminded us not to forget the first Saturday of July – that is when the World Championships of the sport are held in the Market Square of the exotic-sounding Sonkajarvi town in Finland. But my curiosity had been piqued and I needed to know more.
A little bit of research told me that a “wife” need not necessarily be a wife, and the sport is often played as a part of group blind dates in Finland, Estonia and Sweden! People train for this sport by carrying big and heavy sacks on their backs – an extremely symbolic exercise – and this is considered as good a way to strengthen your muscles as any other endurance sport. There is even a relay version of this sport where the wife is the baton, but at the exchange point, the carrier has to drink the “official wife-carrying drink” which is, as you guessed it, strongly alcoholic in nature. And after you have lugged your load (male chauvinism alert!) about till you are exhausted, you always have the option of relaxing in a sauna – there are more saunas than Finns in Finland, apparently.
And that is not all. A Trivandrum-based society for environmental awareness called Ecorun India organizes a wife-carrying race Bhaaryasametham (Malayalam for “carry your wife”) on the first of January each year in God’s own country. They plan to conduct more such events in other parts of India and they should find success. Dunking your wife into a pond of ice-cold water or a pile of sand and getting away with it is every married man’s fantasy.
As I changed the channel once again, I realized that the burden of love is heavy. And often back-breaking too.