It was that time of year again. Our fourth consecutive trip to Dorking, Surrey for what was to be the twelfth annual UK Wife Carrying Race.
Generally this is an event we look forwards to. It’s fun, it’s about as quirky a race concept as there is and it offers me a welcome break from the monotony of marathon training. This time however things were a little different.
There was no denying that it was still going to be a great laugh. You’re jumping over hay bales and running up and down a big hill while carrying your wife on your back. How can you possibly not rise a smile to that in a world where adults have to be so serious the majority of the time? Saying that there was no getting away from the fact that this year the demand for us to get the victory was high.
Firstly, we’ve finished in 2nd place in all of the previous three year’s races. When you’re as competitive as I am and you get that close so many times it really ramps up the desire to win. Secondly, Our local BBC radio station have been documenting our journey to the race and we’d been selected to take part in a TV show on Sky One that gave various celebrities the opportunity to back us to come first and their cameras were there to record us. The world’s media is always at this event but this time some of them were there specifically for us. Pressure on!
In some ways it’s surprising that such an obscure race attracts such high standard of competitors but maybe not so much when you consider that there’s a national title at stake, a world championship to qualify for, a chance to represent your country, a cash prize to go towards your flights to Finland for those championships and to get your moment in the media spotlight.
Registration, wives weigh in (they have to be at least 50KG’s), pre race interview, some promo shots and a good warm up all done and we were on the start line with 40 other couples ready to go.
The wind was swirling and the rain was lashing down. This was going to make the all grass 380 meter course treacherous in an event in which the headlines were dominated last year by a couple who slipped and fell resulting in hospitalisation on what was a dry day. This made my wife a little more nervous but I was confident.
It’s important to get a good start as the hay bales are placed within the first 30 meters on this out and back route. I’ve been held up here before but got us there in a good position this time. After negotiating the four hurdles safely there was just one couple ahead of us as we began to climb the steepening hill. I’ve felt the strain on this significant incline over the past couple of year but this time I was feeling strong and fresh. I soon caught the early leaders and it was now our race to lose.
I reached the turnaround point at the summit with a slender lead which I then increased as the downhill started. I pushed on and felt comfortable. As I approached the crowds I didn’t feel any pressure from behind. Then came the water zone.
This isn’t your regular race’s water zone where you’re offered a nice cup of refreshing water to quench your first. Here they hurl buckets of freezing cold water at point plank range straight into your face. Being in the front I got the brunt of this. This sent me into a bit of a daze and before I knew it, from nowhere I felt a knock to my arm. I’d momentarily shut my eyes as the water was thrown, I opened them and like awakening from a bad dream, we’d been overtaken.
By this point we were already back at the hay bales so a had very little time to react. I went over them as fast as I could then made the final burst to the tape. The momentum had swung their way and there was no getting it back. We crossed the line just inches from victory once again. Unlike last year thought, where we’d been battling all the way with several others, including the couple from Lithuania who finished third but went on to win the world champs, we were well clear of anyone else.
I gave this race my all, I felt really strong throughout, especially on the up hill and this was by far my best performance to date but still just not quite good enough. Full praise to my wife Becky who not only goes through this race with me year in, year out but who also went the extra mile this time by going on a big diet and losing almost a stone since the turn of the year to get down to 58KG’s which is incredible as she’s 5ft 10”.
Congratulations to Chris and Tanisha who beat us and took the title for the second successive year, that was one hell of a finish to close that gap.
I also want to give credit to event organiser Rob McCaffrey from Trionium who, in a time where health and safety and political correctness have gone mad, continues to ensure the maddest thing of all is that this race still goes on. Not only that, but it’s getting stronger and more popular every year. It’s the epitome of a quirky race and long may it remain a part of our racing calendar. Fifth time lucky?
The Sky One show featuring Chris and Becky is called Romesh’s look back to the future and will air in December.