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Swept off their feet! Couples take part in annual wife carrying race with £150 barrel of ale prize

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Swept off their feet! Couples take part in annual wife carrying race along 1,200ft course in Surrey…with the winner rewarded by a £150 barrel of ale

  • The annual wife carrying race in Surrey saw dozens carry their ‘wives’ through a 380m obstacle course today
  • The carried member can be a man or woman, but must weigh at least 50kg or wear a rucksack to make weight
  • The first prize is a barrel of local ale worth £150, while the loser is given a ceremonial Pot Noodle and dog food

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The bizarre annual wife carrying race took place today in Dorking, with dozens of pairs traversing their way through one of the nation’s most unique events.

The 14th UK Wife Carrying Race sees two person teams, one carried and one doing the carrying, race 380 metres around the town over hay bails and while the crowd throws buckets of water at them.

The rules are simple, the carried team member, who doesn’t have to be women or wife, has to weigh at least 50kg or wear a rucksack filled with tins of baked beans, flour, or something similar to help them hit the mark.

All entrants start off at the same time, and the first over the line is the winner.

The first place prize is a barrel of local Ale worth £150 and £250 towards their expenses in representing Britain and competing in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland in July.

Last placed finishers receive the ceremonial Pot Noodle and dog food.

The carrier who completes the course with the heaviest wife wins a pound of sausages to commend their strength and a ceremonial pat on the back from the other carriers.

The oldest carrier gets a tin of pilchards and jar of Bovril.

The annual UK Wife Carrying Race took place today at The Nower in Dorking, Surrey

The annual UK Wife Carrying Race took place today at The Nower in Dorking, Surrey

The event has been held since 2008, but the pandemic meant the tradition needed to be skipped in 2021

The event has been held since 2008, but the pandemic meant the tradition needed to be skipped in 2021

The wives must weigh at least 50kg and wear a helmet in case they are dropped

The wives must weigh at least 50kg and wear a helmet in case they are dropped

The 380m course includes obstacles like bails of hay which need to be jumped over

The 380m course includes obstacles like bails of hay which need to be jumped over

Alex Bone carries Millie Barnham (pictured) took home the first place prize

Alex Bone carries Millie Barnham (pictured) took home the first place prize

Entrants must also only use one of the recognised holds which include the bridal carry, piggy-back, shoulder-ride and fireman's carry. The most popular stance is the Estonian Hold, where the wife is carried upside down on their back (pictured)

Entrants must also only use one of the recognised holds which include the bridal carry, piggy-back, shoulder-ride and fireman’s carry. The most popular stance is the Estonian Hold, where the wife is carried upside down on their back (pictured)

Spectators are encouraged to bring buckets and water pistols to drench the competitors on their second lap

Spectators are encouraged to bring buckets and water pistols to drench the competitors on their second lap

As event organisers Trionium advise: ‘You do not have to be married (to each other, anyway) but it certainly helps if you are at least friends.’

Spectators are encouraged to attend with their own water-pistols and buckets of water to staff the ‘Splash Zone’  

Wife carriers can use any one of the recognised holds: bridal carry, piggy-back, shoulder-ride, fireman’s carry.

The most popular is the Estonian Hold (wife hangs upside-down on man’s back, legs crossed in front of the man’s face), there is a notably less popular variation called the Dorking Hold, also known as the reverse Estonian. 

Organisers of the event suggest that wife-carrying began over twelve centuries ago in 793AD when Viking raiders ransacked the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of England.

It was there that they destroyed the monastery before carrying off any ‘unwilling local wenches’ which started the tradition, according to the race’s official website.

Wife-carrying continued intermittently for around 300 years before the UK Wife Carrying Race was officially instated in 2008. 

The annual UK Wife Carrying Race's origins date back to the Viking invasion of the UK

The annual UK Wife Carrying Race’s origins date back to the Viking invasion of the UK

Team members do not have to be a man and women, or married, but organisers suggest choosing someone you are quite familiar with to carry

Team members do not have to be a man and women, or married, but organisers suggest choosing someone you are quite familiar with to carry

The last person to finish the race is given a ceremonial Pot Noodle and dog food

The last person to finish the race is given a ceremonial Pot Noodle and dog food

The organiser's website warns that wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, with potential injuries such as slipped disks, broken legs and arms and dislocations all possible

The organiser’s website warns that wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, with potential injuries such as slipped disks, broken legs and arms and dislocations all possible

Organisers suggest that wife-carrying began over twelve centuries ago in 793AD

Organisers suggest that wife-carrying began over twelve centuries ago in 793AD

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