UK participation at the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland

Winners and participants from the UK Wife Carrying Race have participated at the UK participation at the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland - this page is dedicated to their stories!

Homepage of Wife Carrying World Championships (Finland)

Our World Wife Carrying Championchips Adventure

By Alex Bone - winning carrier of the UK Wife Carrying Race 2022, with Millie Burnham

We flew to Finland two days before the Championships, arriving at Helsinki first and then catching a connecting flight up to Kuopio Airport, about fifty miles south of where the Championships take place in the small town of Sonkajärvi. The view from our small twin-propeller plane was stunning, as we took in the natural wonder of the countless lakes that punctuated the heavily forested land. Landing at Kuopio, we jumped in our hire car and headed up to our spa hotel in the remote village of Runni, about half an hour’s drive from Sonkajärvi. The sun was out and we couldn’t stop admiring the beautiful views despite how tired we were from our long day of travelling. Finally arriving at our hotel, we immediately went to bed and slept for twelve hours straight, not even noticing that it never got fully dark at any point during the night!


The following morning, now feeling recharged, we went for a relaxing stroll beside the river that streaked past our hotel, and found ourselves once again basking under hot sun and blue skies (the weather was like this the whole time!). Later in the day we had a cool off in a local lake and watched the sun remain unnervingly high in the sky despite the clock on a nearby church tower insisting it was gone 10pm. It was a lot of fun but were careful not to exert ourselves too much as we needed to conserve our energy for the sprint race the next day.

After another decent night’s sleep, we got up and had a big breakfast, fuelling up for the big day ahead. The sprint race wasn’t until 7pm so we had a bit of time to chill and get ourselves mentally prepared. We drove to the venue, checked in and collected our race numbers. Heading over to the track, which had been shortened for the sprint race, we saw the water obstacle for real and it looked much bigger and more terrifying than in any of the videos we had watched online. As we weren’t able to do any training involving water we weren’t sure how to jump in. After a couple of attempts during the practice session, we still felt unsure about how to go about it so we decided we’d just run at it as fast as possible, leap in and hope for the best!


Soon enough it was time to take part in our heat. If we were able to beat the couple we had been paired up with, we would find ourselves in the sprint final. We lined up on the start line with our competitors beside us. The signal to go was a clap of the hands by one of the race officials. We powered off the start line and quickly took the lead. The jump into the water did not go well but fortunately for us it didn’t go well for the other couple either and we came out the water with such a big lead that we could jog to the finish line and conserve energy for the final.

That turned out to be a blessing as the final took place barely five minutes later. This time there were three other couples and suddenly it felt very crowded and competitive. The hand clapped once again and we were off! Just like in our heat, we found ourselves in the lead by the time we reached the water and leaped in. As we were still lacking the correct jumping technique we landed even worse the second time around, and then fell over again on exiting the water. Those mistakes left us in third and too far back to make up any ground over the front two. We continued to the finish line, and whilst third was a big achievement we were still a little disappointed as we knew that if we hadn’t made mistakes in the water we would’ve had a good chance of winning. We quickly headed off back to our hotel to get enough sleep for the main event the next day.


Waking up the following morning, we quickly realised there was a problem: Alex was in a lot of pain and having trouble moving. His neck had seized up and he had pain and stiffness in his left shoulder (it later turned out to be a rotator cuff injury). The only decision we could arrive at was that we would have to pull out of the race. We were heartbroken as we had been training hard for months and made many sacrifices to get to where we were, so to get injured just before the main event was hard to take. Despite the disappointment, we headed back to Sonkajärvi to watch the Championships and cheer on the other competitors. It proved to be very insightful as we discovered the best way to jump into the water, and it was a much more controlled technique than what we had been doing. Now we knew why our landings went so badly!

It was another glorious day of sunshine and after watching the dozens of couples take part we explored the market stalls and had a few drinks whilst enjoying the live music. Then it was time for the medal ceremony and our moment on the podium, where we received our bronze medals, bouquet of sunflowers and an assortment of other prizes including a case of very tasty Finnish beer. Still feeling a bit down at not being able to compete, we had just the tonic we needed when the legendary wife carrier and multiple world champion Vytautas Kirkliauskas came and gave us some nice words of encouragement. So encouraging in fact, that we decided right then and there that we would come back in a year’s time and take part in the 2023 Championships. After the ceremony, we went for a drink at a nearby pub and bonded with some of the other wife carrying couples, and then headed to another lake for a swim to cap off a brilliant day.

With the Championships behind us, we had one final day in Finland to relax and explore. We soon found ourselves on an adventurous canoe trip along a beautiful river and it was the perfect way to unwind after all our training over the previous several months. The following day we made the long trip back home to the UK, where we were slightly shocked to see a dark sky in the evening. We realised we hadn’t seen the night in nearly a week! Looking back at our trip, we had an amazing time and fell in love with the gorgeous country that is Finland. The people were lovely and the way of life out there is much more relaxed and friendly than in the hustle and bustle of Britain. We have already resumed our training and can’t wait to go back again and take part in 2023.


Wife Carrying World Championships 2019: Team GB on tour!
By Robert McCaffrey, organiser of the UK Wife Carrying Race.

Homepage for World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland

Below: Highlights of the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland, July 2019


Below: MY Wife Carrying Championships...

Click below to see photos on Flickr

Wife Carrying World Championships 2019

The winners of the UK Wife Carrying Race, Christopher Hepworth and Tanisha Prince, decided in 2019 to return to Sonkajärjvi, 500km north of Helsinki, to try to achieve a podium finish in the World Championships, after having finished sixth in 2018.

So it was that the couple - who became engaged at the prize-giving of the UK race when Chris proposed in front of the world’s assembled press - met with Chris’ parents Penny and Tony and with UK race organiser Robert McCaffrey for an early-morning flight from London Heathrow to Helsinki on Thursday 4th July 2019. The five of us then travelled north in convoy (spotting a pair of Cranes on the way), stopping once mid-way and at the local supermarket in Sonkajärvi, to arrive at a lovely modern Scandinavian cottage by a lake and stream at 9pm. A swiftly-prepared spaghetti bolognese was soon polished-off, followed by a spot of midnight birdwatching (including some noisy Common sandpipers). Daylight is continuous, and midnight is marked only by a slight dimming in light levels. The merciless mosquitos took advantage of the long days and operated on a 24-hour basis.

On Friday 5th July, we breakfasted and then Chris and I went for a run together in the heat of the day (the run was an easy one for him and a hard one for me). We spotted Woodcock and Lapwing during the run. On our return, we all headed to the lake for a swim in the refreshing waters, which were the colour of Guinness, and which were so dark that you could not see your finger-tips at extended arm’s length. I went for an additional bird-walk, and spotted several Redwings and a Scarlet rosefinch (a lifetime first sighting). Eschewing lunch, we headed into Sonkajärvi to take part in the sprint competition.

The Wife Carrying World Championships probably need some words of explanation. Back in 1992, the municipality decided to resurrect an old folk tale of a local forest-dwelling robber, who was said to steal wives from some of the villages nearby. A wife-carrying course was progressively built at the side of the athletics track of the local high school, complete with spectator seating, a winding 250m cinder track, 5x10m ‘water pool,’ and movable log-based hurdles. The event now attracts competitors from various national races around the world, but the majority of competitors are still Finnish, with a strong contingent from the Baltic countries. The event is the largest thing that happens in the village of Sonkajärvi, population 4000, and is a major fund-raiser for local causes. The event starts on the Friday with a ‘sprint’ competition, which has a distance of 100m and which includes the pool, but does not include the log-hurdles.

Only six couples had elected to take part, and the crowd was a little thin, but we gave it a go. We went in pairs. My first local wife was Reeka, a smiley lass of 23 years and 62kg. We carefully stepped down into the pool, but then her momentum carried her onwards and we toppled over (I was carrying her in the shoulder-ride). As planned, she floated off and I gave a few swimming strokes to get me towards the end of the pool. She re-mounted me, piggy-back style, but unfortunately before I had managed to get to my feet. This meant that she rode me like a little horse as I crawled out of the pool. My hands got covered in cinders, so I decided to jump back into the pool to retrieve them, during which plunge I lost my glasses. The crowd enjoyed this unusual scene, with one little girl in the stands nearly wetting herself with laughter. A frogman was sent in to retrieve the glasses, but I decided not to hang around. Reeka was soon remounted on my shoulders, and I jogged along the rest of the course without incident, playing to the crowd and enjoying the cheers. We finished dead last.

Chris and Tanisha, however, did rather better. They were fast enough to qualify for the final, with the other three fastest couples. During the final of the sprint, there was a mad melee in the pool, during which elbows were used. However, they emerged well, just behind the Finnish multiple-winner of the race who managed to hold off Chris to take the win once more, by a whisker. The Brits were happy enough with silver.

We returned back to the cottage and had a fantastic barbecue, with a few beers and a slathering of bug-spray.

Finally, on Saturday 6th July, the ‘real’ championships arrived. I met my second local ‘wife,’ Venla, a friendly local horticultural worker, who was 28 years old and just a tad over 60kg. The event starts off with a parade of tractors, which is quite a spectacle since the unusual models on show include some of the old farmers driving them.

As a prelude to the main event, a relay race takes place, with a ‘wife’ being conveyed over the full course (including pool and log hurdles) by a team of three. At each changeover, the carrier has to drink a bottle of fizzy pop, which makes for a somewhat stop-start race. Six teams took part, five of them finishing within five seconds of each other. However, the winners (who had won the relay five times previously and who train especially for the race) were 45 seconds quicker than the second-placed team. They were not the slimmest competitors, one of them weighing 145kg, but they absolutely went for it and also drank their pop much quicker than the other teams. That they were all dressed as superheroes made their victory all the more impressive.

By the time of the main race, there was a real buzz, with up to around 1500 spectators. 30 pairs of competitors milled around, scoping each other out and making new friends. There were a number of good costumes on display, including lederhosen from Austria and national dress from Croatia and there was also an immense ‘Hagar-like’ Viking. I was kitted out in traditional Union-Jack running shorts, and cape, and comedy Scottish cap and wild ginger hair. We spotted a few familiar faces from around town and from previous competitions, and prepared for the ‘parade of nations.’ All the competitors paraded in wonderful warm sunshine at 2.45pm, but storm clouds were on the horizon. As it says on the event’s web site, “The weather will be traditional Finnish weather: so all you need to bring with you is bikinis or speedos, sun lotion, insect repellant, umbrella, winter coat and mittens.” As the main race approached, the heavens opened, with heavy rain coming down for the duration of the races, only stopping as soon as the last race was over.

Competitors run against each other in pairs, in more-or-less random order, albeit with last year’s winner going last. Chris and Tanisha were drawn with a very fast guy from Finland, who was just ahead of them as they leapt into the pool. Chris very nearly landed on top of him, and there was a bit of thrashing around in the pool before they both emerged. The Finn was obviously a strong runner, and Chris seemed not to catch him up as they neared the first log hurdle. Then there is an interminable stretch with a sharp turn, during which time Chris drew nearly level: over the last hurdle they went with the Finn slightly in the lead, although Chris was certainly catching him. As they came to the line, Chris lunged but at the same time tripped, landing with part of him over the line, but not his partner. The timer was only stopped when Tanisha remounted and Chris carried her fully over the line. At this point they knew they had not got the gold, but their placing depended on the speed of the other competitors.

A couple of heats later, I went off with my new ‘wife,’ Venla, once again in the shoulder-carry hold (since she was wearing a helmet with a video camera on top). We steeped into the pool more carefully, but once again, my wife toppled forward like a breaking wave on a beach. This time I managed to get her onto my shoulders before rising from the pool and I was very pleased to carry her out. We were not far behind our opponents, but I struggled badly up the small incline up to the first log hurdle, huffing and puffing from the strain. I used an unusual reverse-buttock-rotation-twist move to get over the hurdle, on account of my short legs, and it worked well. I puffed my way around the course, reverse-buttocking the next hurdle, and trying to encourage the crowd alongside Venla, as we finished the course in good style. We finished in 2:28, less than a second behind one Finnish couple and a full 45 seconds ahead of another pair. We were 30th out of 31, but we were not last! We were unofficially awarded ‘most stylish pair’ for the unusual shoulder-carry position.

Back at the sharp end of the competition, the previous multiple winners from Finland were able to edge Chris and Tanisha into third place, before last-year’s winners, Vytautas and his wife Neringa, from Lithuania, won the event in 1:06:72, just 0.1 seconds ahead of second place, edging our couple into fourth.

The entire event has taken an hour, during which time the rain had been unrelenting. We went back to the spectators’ stands to find Tony and Penny, Chris’ parents, soaked to the skin.

At the impressive and well-organised awards ceremony, Chris and Tanisha were able to pick up their silver medal, for their run in the sprint race on Friday, as well as armfuls of local swag. There was a great deal of post-race jollity, with Venla and myself meeting other competitors in the local pub, before we went to a civic reception (‘free beers!’) in the spectacular local library. An ABBA band played in the Wife Carrying Party hall, with plenty of Finnish beer being drunk. We skipped off a little early, and had a sauna back at the cottage, before having a midnight feast of roast potatoes and cold sausages. Delicious, and the perfect end to the day.

On Sunday 7th July, we set off at 10am to drive the 500km back to Helsinki in convoy once more, before saying our respective goodbyes. It had been a fabulous four days, and we certainly packed in a lot. Chris and Tanisha say that they will be back for another go next year: Good luck to them!


Congraultations to Vytautas and Neringa Kirliauskas of Lithuania, frequent (tough) competitors at the UK Wife Carrying Race in Dorking, who have won the World Wife Carrying Championships 2018 in Finland!

Photo Credit: Eukonkanto - World Wife Carrying Championships 2018, Finland, picutre by Hannu Keränen

Chris Hepworth and Tanisha Prince (winners in Dorking in 2018) were 5th overall - good effort!


UK Wife Carrying Race Winners Chris Hepworth and Tanisha Prince - Our World Wife Carrying Championships Trip 2018!

Chris Hepworth's WWCR-2018 photos

An amazing 2018 World Wife Carrying Championships saw us finishing fifth, just two seconds off a medal, as well as claiming silver in the relay race!

Our journey started with a flight to Helsinki, as we decided to make a little holiday of the trip and spend some time experiencing Finland. We stayed our first night in Helsinki, in a hotel which has no staff and is all done through number code entry, which was something a little different. The next day we hired a car from the outskirts of the city and took to the road on a 6 hour drive.

We drove to the race in Sonkajärvi on Route 5, nicknamed 'The Road of Death', due to its high traffic accident statistics. It didn't live up to the name though, as it was a relatively quiet and peaceful road cutting through the beautiful Finnish countryside. We arrived in our campsite in Hirvijärvi the day before the first day of the event and stayed in a log cabin in the woods, which was very basic, but also very quaint and really grew on us for the three nights we stayed there.

The next day we headed to the Championships to take part in the sprint race. The venue was a mini festival style, set-up over a gravel athletics track. There was numerous market stalls, traditional Finnish food, a large bar and a big stage for the Wife Carrying Karaoke and the Finnish Eurodance pop that was on show in the evenings. The course finished on the track and had a one metre deep, ten metres long pool and two log jumps and a couple of tight bends.

The sprint race was only 100m long, with the one water jump and the couple of tight bends. Unfortunately this race didn't go very well as we were torn between running or jumping into the water and we made the wrong choice, slipping badly, causing us to basically drown for a few seconds. We managed to get through to the end, but lost far too much time to qualify out of the heats.

The benefit of competing in this race, was that we met a Swiss pairing (the winners of the sprint race) and were reunited with a former UK Wife Carrying Champion, John Lund, who we competed against in this year's UK race. After the sprint race finished, we all decided to team up to compete in the Wife Carrying World Championships Relay Race the next day.

There was eight teams taking part in the relay race and we were the only non Finnish team (Team British Alps). The race took place over the full 253.5m course, with three men relaying one wife (Tanisha got the call up over the other 'wives'). You have to run your leg, then put the 'wife' down, drink a bottle of 330ml sparkling water as fast as possible (used to be beer, but it's been changed so that anyone can take part) and then the next 'husband' can pick up the wife.

We won our heat of two teams comfortably, however we didn't realise that once the last leg runner finished their drink, they have to pick the wife back up and run the one metre to cross the finish line. By the time John realised what the Finnish speaking officials were saying, we lost about 5 seconds. This time lost ended up meaning that we just missed out on winning, to the team dressed up as Mario Kart characters. However, it was a great laugh and we got a lovely medal and some cool prizes out of it.

A few hours later we took to the course in the main race, which is split up into heats of three people, with the times making up the finishing positions. We had learnt from the sprint race to sprint fast up to the water and jump as far as possible into the water. This worked very well and gave us a good start, although we did still slip a lot on the way out of the water. We then had to negotiate the two log hurdles and two tight bends.

We won our heat and were the fastest time at that point in the competition, with half the field left to race. However, the last few heats were stacked with fast competitors, including the frequent UK Wife Carrying Competitors from Lithuania, Vytautas and Neringa Kirliauskas and the six time World Wife Carrying Champion, Taisto Miettinen. Vytautas and Neringa got their revenge on us, after we defeated them at the UK race, as they destroyed us and the rest of the field to take an impressive win, with Taisto finishing in second and our Swiss relay partners in third and us in fifth place in a time of 1:12.72.

It was an amazing experience to take part in this event, competing in front of a packed crowd of a couple of thousand people, and making some great friends, who I'm sure we will keep in contact with. Competing at this Championships was one of the best experiences we have ever had as a couple, and we would recommend to all of the UK wife carriers, no matter what your level, to give it a go, you won't regret it! We will definitely be going back next year for more wife carrying fun, and hopefully... an individual medal!


Congratulations to Jack McKendrick and Kirsty Jones - UK Wife Carrying Race winners 2017, who competed in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland on 1 July, and who came 8th out of 45 competitors in 1:15:75. The race was won by the Finnish pair of Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapanen in 1:08:65.

Our World Wife-Carrying Championships experience
by Jack McKendrick and Kirsty Jones

Due to the remoteness of Sonkajarvi we decided to arrive in the country a couple of days prior to the event and give ourselves a more leisurely drive up from Helsinki. The 3 hour flight was made more entertaining by the fact that the passenger across the aisle from us had brought his dog in the cabin. On landing, the Moomin-themed arrivals lounge kept Kirsty entertained before we got our hire car. From the airport it was only a short drive to the Gustuvland Hotel which was a nice spa hotel on one of the many lakes. During the drive we realised it was midnight and still bright skies! This becomes more of a problem later on.

The next morning our 6 hour drive up towards Sonkajarvi started. Quickly tiring of the motorway, we took to the back roads and tested out the hire car on the non-stop rally stage of loose gravel and tight corners through the forests, searching for any of the moose, lynx or bears that we were sure were in the woods. After a couple of hours of not seeing any, we took a decent hour and a half diversion to visit ‘Moose Manor’ which was advertised as a zoo. Arriving at the small cafe next to two fields housing a few very ill-looking deer, a reindeer and three moose, we enjoyed a moose kebab, a couple of beers and a photo opportunity with the biggest moose. We quickly left and carried on to just outside Kuopio where we planned to camp lakeside and enjoy the Finnish wilderness. Unfortunately, the Finnish wilderness was mainly made up of huge mosquitos that ate me alive but spared Kirsty. Apparently I taste good. We still had an awesome night of skinny-dipping and sunbathing (at 10pm) before we squeezed into our tent and didn't sleep a wink because, of course, it doesn't go dark.

Prepped and ready as any athlete has been for a world championships, we set off to Sonkajarvi, stopping at a supermarket for a sink wash on the way and arrived at a festival-style setup with a track, stands and loads of market stalls. After signing-in we went and checked out the track and met a few other couples competing. The English translator decided to leave at this point and we hung around with a couple of Americans (wife carrying celebrities that are in a wife carrying Netflix film being released in October. Watch out for it!) not really knowing what was going on. After a flag parade where we managed to sneak an extra Union Jack onto the flag poles, couples started racing. When it was our turn, there was a bit of confusion, still no translator and a ninja turtle giving a speech, before a beep out of nowhere that signalled the start. We were off! The water obstacle went fine, with Kirsty being a star and being able to stay with her head underwater as I took forever to get through it, then the sprint was straightforward as there were no hills, unlike the UK race. The only dramas were the two logs that I needed to climb over, whereas the 6' 7" American that came second stepped over them. We still managed to come first in our heat, and eighth overall, with a time of 1 minute 15 seconds. After a few Finnish beers and some pictures with more Americans (they love it) we retired to our hotel which had blackout curtains!! So we finally got a good sleep, before the long drive back to Helsinki the next day.


Congratulations to UK Wife Carrying Champion 2014 Rich Blake-Smith for taking silver place (missing gold by 0.5 seconds) in the World Wife Carrying Championships 2014 in Sonkajärvi, Finland!


Mega-Congratulations to UK Wife Carrying Champion 2013 Matt Witko and partner Hattie Archer for taking bronze place (on their first attempt) in the World Wife Carrying Championships 2013 in Sonkajärvi, Finland!


Conferio Ltd

Epsom, Surrey, KT19 8TR

wife at trionium dot com