Point of No Return: It’s a true test if you might drop your spouse

It wouldn’t be completely unfathomable to overhear a spouse suggest that he or she “carries” the other spouse in their marriage, right? I mean, from time to time, we all feel like we’re the ones doing more than our fair share at work, in relationships, on teams, or, whatever. 

It’s basically human nature to believe that we do more, feel more, need more and expect more than anybody else, probably because we can only really tap into our own minds and bodies and nobody else’s. Of course, if some of you are like me, there are other times when I’m planted firmly on a couch or zoning out at my desk when I feel like everybody else is carrying me, and I’m just a big bald-headed Cleopatra being taken...

But I digress. And early this week, I might add.

Of course, there are certain situations when one spouse does metaphorically “carry” the other, but those are relationships that tend to end much more frequently these days than they did in the past. And, yeah, there are other situations where a spouse literally does carry the other. 

Ladies and gentlemen, after one of the longer, more drawn-out lead-ins in column-writing history, I present to you...

The World Wife-Carrying Championship, now in its 23rd year, took place in Sonkajarvi, Finland, on Saturday, July 7. According to a story authored by the fine people at Reuters, the event drew “thousands of visitors to the town of 4,200 and has gained followers across the world.”

Those excited spectators got to watch 53 men sling their wives or partners over their shoulders and embark on an approximate hour-long race that involves an obstacle course. Couples can receive a 10-second penalty if they fall and hit the ground, though I’m guessing that the penalty for dropping one’s wife is much more severe back at home than any 10-second penalty could be on a course.

According to Reuters, the concept of a wife-carrying sport was “inspired by the 19th century legend of Ronkainen the Robber, who tested aspiring members of his gang by forcing them to carry sacks of grain or large pigs over a similar course.” Another theory behind the genesis of the championship is an old practice of wife-stealing — which has apparently led to many current contestants competing with someone else’s wife.

“Hey, honey. Do you want to take part in a wife-carrying tournament?”

“It can’t possibly mean what it sounds like, right?”

“Yeah, it’s really cool. I’m going to throw you over my shoulder like a pig or sack of grain and we’re going to run around a course.”

“A pig or a sack of grain?”

“That didn’t come out right.”

“I’d hope not.”

“Look, we can get really traditional here and I can throw someone else’s wife over my shoulder, and...”

“Or I could just wait until you fall asleep tonight and...”

“Would you rather throw boots?”

Ah, yes. It would seem that the fine people of Finland also hold competitions for boot-throwing, air guitar and mobile phone throwing — showing that they are capable of much more than just producing timber, minerals and freshwater resources (thanks, Wikipedia!).

“I think because we have only three months of light we need to come up with nice stuff to do during the summertime, and we want to show everyone we have a great sense of humor,” explained Sanna-Mari Nuutinen, a volunteer at the wife-carrying extravaganza.

Though I am joking around about this, it probably seems like it would be a fun time, right?

There were actually qualifying tournaments in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden and Estonia, according to Reuters, and The Newcastle Herald in Australia wrote a story about an Aussie couple who finished 18th in the event, so there is at least some semblance of competitive interest. And the couple that won is from Lithuania, so that implies a real sense of commitment by the competitiors.

Actually, that winning couple, Vytautas Kirkliauskas and Neringa Kirklauskiene, are parents of two, and defeated six-time champion Taisto Miettinen. Judging by the photos I saw online, the couple looks like they could run a triathlon and climb a few mountains in the afternoon after they finished the race. 

In fact, if you get the chance, Google this event and take a look at the photos of all the contestants and the crowd. There was one couple dressed in reindeer outfits, another in a tutu and top hat combination and another pair dressed like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. The crowd wore their flags and blasted horns as if they were in the World Cup, and several couples, like our winning pair, appeared to be able to compete in just about any athletic endeavor they chose. 

It’s kind of like going to some of the local runs we have in our area — there are always some people out there having a good time in their festive and individualized ensembles, and some serious hardcore competitors. But rarely do our local runs involve potentially dropping our spouses.

Or my wife would have volunteered to carry me a long, long time ago.

By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor