The kooky and competitive world of wife-carrying races is coming to Alberta for the first time, giving runners a unique chance to haul their better halves for a shot at beer, cash and glory.
The Alberta Wife Carrying Championship—the province’s first competition officially sanctioned by the North American Wife Carrying Championship—gets underway Saturday in the hamlet of Lac La Biche, about 220 kilometers northeast of Edmonton.
While new to Alberta, wife-carrying races—in which participants sling their spouse on their back and sprint down a 254-metre obstacle-laden course to the finish line—has been attracting competitive couples and amused crowds in the United States and Europe for decades. The North American Wife Carrying Championship was founded in 1999, and has been held every October at the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine. Couples can qualify for this continental championship by winning sanctioned state, provincial or regional wife-carrying events.
According to the organization, the event is based on a 19th century Finnish legend of Ronkainen the Robber, who made prospective members of his band prove their worth by navigating a difficult course with a heavy sack (or a woman grabbed from a neighboring village) on their back. The first modern-day wife-carrying event was held in Finland in 1991.
A competition as uncommon as this demands an equally novel prize, and wife-carrying races don’t disappoint. As is the case with other sanctioned events, the Alberta Wife Carrying Competition boasts as its top prize the winning wife’s weight in beer and five times her weight in cash. The runners-up of Saturday’s final will be awarded half that amount.
Interested couples who haven’t tied the knot needn’t worry—pairs don’t have to be married to take part in Saturday’s event. Participants do need to be at least 20 years old, however. Unlike Wife Carrying World Championship rules requiring that the carried participant weigh at least 49 kilograms (or wear a loaded rucksack that weighs enough to make up the difference), North American Wife Carrying Championship rules do not call for a minimum weight. Of course, as the prize amounts hinge on the weight of the “wife,” a heavier partner will yield a greater reward.
Saturday’s event kicks off at 2 pm at the Lac La Biche Agricultural Society Grounds as part of the Lakeland Country Fair and Rodeo. Registration information for the Alberta Wife Carrying Championship can be found here.