Back in the day, men chose their wives for entirely romantic reasons like land acquisition or lots of cash.

Later, on account of all those John Hughes movies, that “love” stuff came into play. People started getting married simply because they liked each other.

But since the North American Wife Carrying Championships arrived at Sunday River 11 years ago, it’s not a healthy sense of humor or a pretty smile that modern men wish to wed. Instead, they’re looking for small-framed ladies with a solid grip and dense musculature.

These are the wives championships are made of.

If the name isn’t explanation enough, the Wife Carrying competition involves a guy carrying his wife (or girlfriend or girl he picked up last night with the pretty teeth and a name that’s hard to remember) over a 278-yard course built on the lower slopes of Sunday River Ski Resort.

The course starts with an uphill run, then ventures through a field of obstacles that include a 10-meter wade through waist-deep water and a series of log hurdles.

If you’re a muscle-bound lady of the house, you can carry your husband too (or boyfriend or next door neighbor who’s occasionally caught peeking through the blinds). Whatever dynamics suit you. I once knew a couple that liked to shoot each other with pellet guns as a way of showing affection, so I won’t judge.

The entertainment value of said competition resides not in the finish line outcome, but rather the two-person positioning. How does one carry his wife 278 yards?

The “cradle” arrangement works when you’re posing for pictures in a Hawaiian island waterfall, but it lacks long-distance stability.

And sure, you’ve hefted your better half over your shoulder when she’s overdone it on the wine at the neighbor’s and needs to be airlifted from their living room floor. But running like that? It’s simply not efficient.

Thus, the “Estonian carry,” wherein the woman hangs upside down on the man’s back with her arms wrapped around his waist and her legs draped over his shoulders. The position frees the fellow’s arms, which helps with stability and maneuvering over aforementioned obstacles.

Of course, it also puts the lady in a precarious position, with her tush in the air and her face awkwardly close to her husband’s rear.

Wife carrying has its dangers. But what’s a few dropped wives when you have the potential to win the little lady’s weight in beer and five times that in cash? Your sweetheart can nurse that concussion with a six-pack and a $500 bill.

If your ball and chain isn’t keen on the idea — or if you’re ball and chainless — feel free to show up and seek out a teammate. Pairs don’t need to be married, though duos must include a man and a woman and both need to be 21 or older.

A pre-race vow doesn’t hurt either, “to have and to hold, for beer and for cash.”


Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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