Friday, December 13, 2013
Lacey Castro is a champion, albeit a very specialized kind of champion.
Dave and Lacey Castro return to the scene of their triumph, shown here.
Derek Davis/Staff Photographer/2009 Press Herald file
2012 NORTH AMERICAN WIFE CARRYING CHAMPIONSHIP
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Sunday River, 15 South Ridge Road, Newry
HOW MUCH: Free
Castro, 30, was co-winner of the 2009 North American Wife Carrying Championship.
As the wife, it was Castro's job to keep a firm grasp on her husband, Dave, while he ran a 278-yard obstacle course up hills, across logs, through mud and sand, and into water.
While her husband ran, the 97-pound Castro was on his back, with her head down by his waist and her legs over his shoulders. (The position in wife-carrying parlance is known as the Estonian, by the way.)
It's a unique way to run a race, to say the least.
So how does one become a champion at being carried upside down by one's husband while water and mud and ground and rocks are whizzing by one's head in a blur?
"My only advice is, no matter what happens, hold on," said Castro, of Alfred. "It always goes by faster than I think it will."
Castro had so much fun, she's ready to be carried upside down again. She and her husband will be one of the 52 couples competing Saturday in the 2012 North American Wife Carrying Championship at the Sunday River ski area.
The event is part of Sunday River's fall festival, and is free to spectators. The competitive field is full for this year, but if you want to try your hand at wife carrying, check it out this year as a spectator and sign up for next year.
The couples run in heats, with winning times usually less than a minute. The winning couple gets the wife's weight in beer and five times her weight in cash. For the Castros, that turned out to be six cases of Bud Light and a little under $500.
The wife carrying championships have been a huge crowd favorite at Sunday River for the past decade or so. The event began after somebody pointed out to the folks at Sunday River that there was such a thing as wife carrying contests, and that the world championships are held yearly in Finland, where the sport originated.
Wife carrying in Finnish folklore is traced to a 19th-century character, Rankainen the Robber, who is said to have tested out his henchmen's strength and endurance by making them run a course with a heavy sack on their backs. Throw in the fact that this robber band supposedly stole women from neighboring villages, and you've got the basis for modern wife carrying.
And although the word "wife" is used, it's not a technical requirement. Couples competing can be unmarried. Heck, they don't even have to date. They just have to work well together when one is running and the other is hanging upside down.
And, according to the official rules, the woman can carry the man, if that seems to be the best arrangement.
In the Castros' case, it wouldn't be. Lacey is about 5 feet tall and weighs 97 pounds. Dave is about 5-feet-10, but is a UPS driver. Which means he's in good physical shape and is used to a lot of running.
"He's just a really competitive person too," said Castro. "So when we heard about this, we thought it was something we'd like to try."
The Castros have also tried various racing positions -- piggyback and the fireman's carry, for instance. But the Estonian (no one's quite sure why it's called that) seems to work best. In fact, the folks at Sunday River said every couple who has won the championship has used the Estonian.
"For us, there's something about the weight distribution that works best," said Castro.
After winning the North American title, Castro and her husband traveled to Finland to compete in the world championship. But since the Fins invented the sport, you'd figure they'd be good at it.
And you'd be right. The Castros came in fifth.
"We were very disappointed," said Castro.
But on Saturday, she will be racing at Sunday River with her husband, back on familiar ground.
She just hopes that the ground doesn't hit her in the head.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: