UK Wife Carrying Race - FAQs

Who can enter?

Anyone can enter the UK Wife Carrying Race - but both carrier and carried must be 18 or over. We welcome all nationalities to the UKWife Carrying Race. Entry is strictly online only, via

How far is it?

The UK Wife Carrying Race is run over a course of 380m, with an ascent of 15m to the half way point. It is much tougher than other wife carrying races around the world, which are typically shorter and flatter. It is tiring to run it on your own - let alone carrying a wife!

Do you have to be married?

You do not have to be married (to each other, anyway) but it certainly helps if you are at least friends. We have now had men carrying women, a woman carrying a man, a woman carrying a woman, and a man carrying a man. I think that just about covers all the possible combinations.

How does it work on the day?

Couples check in at registration and the 'wife' is weighed on a set of scales. The couples receive their t-shirts (with their names on them) and they must wear them and their race number during the race. At about 10.15, couples walk from the race HQ to the start line for the safety briefing and warm up. All the 'wives' being carried have to wear a crash-helmet (a cycle helmet will do) since tumbles and falls can happen. At 10.30, all the couples run in the same race (different to overseas races, where there may be various heats with just two couples racing against each other). After the race there is a prize-giving ceremony. The UK Wife Carrying Race is over quite quickly, since at 11am a popular half marathon starts at the same place. In 2013 the winner of the Wife Carrying Race went on immediately to run in the half marathon and came third in that race. Impressive.

What's the best way to carrying my 'wife'?

The choice of carrying style is up to you, but there are some recognised position that you might like to try in your practice sessions (you are practicing, aren't you?). Piggyback is popular, but slow. Shoulder-ride is precarious, possibly high-risk, but could be quite fast (the wife will get a great view of the race, at least). The 'Fireman's Carry' - where the 'wife' is carried across or over the shoulders - is quite fast, but rather uncomfortable for both carrier and 'wife'. The fastest position is the Estonian carry - where the 'wife' hangs upside-down on the carrier's back, with their legs over the carrier's shoulders and the wife's head in the 'danger zone,' next to the carrier's bum. Possibly the least fast - but the funniest - is the reverse Estonian, or Dorking Hold, pioneered in Dorking in 2013, which is a kind of Wife Carrying '69' position. This will guarantee you fame - and infamy.

Are there obstacles?

Oh yes. There are straw bales that the carriers have to climb over at the start and finish of the race. On the return leg, downhill, there is a battery of people with buckets of water and water-pistols waiting to target all runners. (We have buckets and water-pistols because the place where we run the UK Wife Carying Race is a nature reserve and we can't dig a pit to have a pond - like many other wife carrying races around the world). The buckets and water pistols make it feel like an episode of 'It's a knockout.'

Is wife carrying dangerous?

Potentially, yes. Wife carrying can lead to slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fracture, hernias, and other sundry injuries and illnesses, and potentially up to and including death or worse. But don't let that put you off. There haven't been any serious injuries yet.

Are there goodies?

Very much so. Only the carrier needs to enter the race - but both the carrier and the 'wife' get a t-shirt. In addition, all participants win a UK Wife Carrying Race medal, and a mini-keg of delicious Pilgrim Ale.

When was the UK Wife Carrying Race created and why?

The first UK Wife Carrying Race took place in 2008. The race was started for a laugh, after the race organiser saw the Finnish World Championships in his youth on ITV's World of Sport, hosted by mustachioed avuncular sports icon Dickie Davies.

Is wife carrying a sport?

It takes strength, fitness, technique and practice to succeed, so yes, it's a sport. Maybe it should be included in the Olympics!

Where does it take place?

The UK Wife Carrying Race takes place on 'The Nower,' a nature reserve with lovely view on the edge of Dorking, Surrey. Dorking is an historic market town in a rural and picturesque part of the Surrey Hills, just outside London, half way between Gatwick and Heathrow airports in the south of England. Apart from the UK Wife Carrying Race, Dorking is famous for its many antique shops, for the large metal chicken statue on a roundabout just outside the town commemorating the special breed of chicken found in Dorking, for the well-known Dorking Choral Society, and for Denbies Vineyard (the largest in the UK) and for Box Hill - famous as an Olympic cycling venue. Dorking is a great place!

How many couples take part in the UK Wife Carrying Race?

Only three couples took part in the very first UK Wife Carrying Race, but it has become much more popular over the years and now around 30 couples take part each year.

Are there any other rules?

The 'wife' has to weigh at least 50kg - there is an official weigh-in, and if she weighs less than 50kg, she has to 'bulk up' with a rucksack full of tins of baked beans (an English delicacy).

Are there prizes?

The winners of the UK Wife Carrying Race win a barrel of Pilgrim ale, and a cash prize to help them compete in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland. The last placed couple win the traditional prize (in this race) of a tin of dog food and a Pot Noodle (a flavoursome snack in a pot that comes alive when you pour boiling water upon it). The carrier of the heaviest wife wins a pound (approximately 0.5kg for trendy-types using the new-fangled 'metric' system) of sausages, 'for strength.'

Is wife carrying a tradition in the UK?

We think that wife carrying may have started (with a little help from our Scandinavian cousins) in what became the UKwhen Viking raiders ransacked monasteries and villages on the northeast coast of England in 793AD. The sport was reborn in the UK in 2008.

Does wife carrying take place anywhere else?

Wife Carrying has its spiritual home in Finland, where the World Wife Carrying Championships takes place every year in the small and isolated village of Sonkajärvi. In Finland, wife carrying is called 'eukonkanto.' Finns have regularly won the competition, but their bitter rivals from Estonia challenge them hard every year. The British champion of 2013, Matt Witko came third in the World Championships in Finland in 2013. Wife carrying races also take place in the US, Canada and Australia.

What does it take to win the race?

To win the race, you must be a fit and strong carrier with a wife of 50kg or not much more. Relatively slight carriers have won the race in the UK - using superior technique. However, if you are a big strong guy, you should do well.

Do you ever take part?

Robert McCaffrey, the race organiser, took part in the race in 2013 (his wife claimed to have a cold and so he had to chose someone out of the crowd) and commented afterwards, "That was the most knackering three minutes of my life."

How difficult is it?

It is very, very tough.

Do people take it seriously?

Some of them take it very seriously - and why not? - there's a national title at stake! Most people are in the race for a bit of fun and bragging rights. You will dine out on this for years to come!

How important is the UK Wife Carrying Race in the universe?

In the universe? Totally unimportant. To the people competing in the race? Everything.