‘Wives Up!’ for Wisconsin Wife Carrying Championship at Monona Community Festival

MONONA, Wis. — When you married your significant other, was a muddy, 300-meter obstacle course in your vows? That kind of passion was there in the couples who took to the Wisconsin Wife Carrying Championships. 

Racers didn’t start with “on your marks.” Their signal was “WIVES UP!”  

For more than 10 years, the Monona Community Festival has played host to the Wisconsin Wife Carrying Championships.  

“Basically, a couple can be a man-woman, man-man, woman-woman — doesn’t matter,” said Eric Redding, President of the Monona Community Festival. “Basically, wife is just the name but it’s a couple that runs through an obstacle course.” 

The contest originated in 19th century Finland, according to the festival organizers, with “brigands who indulged in, besides looting, the equally questionable practice of abducting local women.” 

Nowadays it’s all much more legal, and you don’t have to be married to participate.  

Michael Lockard and Jordyn Zoul are dating during their first running of the course.   

“I’ve done a bunch of Tough Mudders so I don’t know, that reminds me of a Tough Mudder for sure,” Michael said. “I’ve never had someone on my back before.”   

An “obstacle course” was putting it lightly. 

Right away, couples had to hop through a row of tires. Then, with wives strapped on their backs, they quickly get over a long hurdle. To top it all off, they had to trudge through murky water to scale a sand hill.  Then they looped back and did it all again.  

“I think we were just worried that we didn’t want to drop her in the water and get wet,” said Caleb Roesler. “I think you were worried about the tires, tripping on tires.”  

“I didn’t want to fall,” his wife, Justine replied.   

The Roeslers were this year’s champions, with a time of 1 minute, and 7 seconds.  

To make sure Caleb held on to his precious cargo tight, they trained like all athletes – who maybe don’t train like this.   

“We basically did 2 practice runs in our backyard kind of peaked around make sure nobody was watching us,” said Caleb, “but yeah just basically put her on my shoulders and just ran for 30 seconds just to see what technique worked best.”  

For Justine, her strategy was simple. “I hung on for dear life and that’s all I did!”  

Judging by the faces of all the wedded runners, it was hard to tell whether the race fell under “in sickness”, or “in health.”  

“We’ve got people who think they’re very athletic and very fit and by the time they’re done they’re panting and can barely make it to the end,” Redding said.  

But the reward was sweet.

“The best thing about it is actually the prize itself so the couple that wins, wins $5 per pound so that’s at least $500. And then the best part about it is they win the carried person’s weight in beer,” said Redding.  

The prized red scale sat awaiting the winners, with clear instructions of “BEER” on one end, and “BUTT” on the other.

In the end, it was Justine who got to sit victorious on the scale, Caleb carrying her over the finish line. “We’ll make a lot of friends for sure, sharing [the beer],” she said.   

“When we were a little younger, we used to do kind of triathlons together and we still kind of both do a little bit of running, and we saw this years ago on like ESPN just the footage and we thought someday we got to do that cause we just joked about our height difference,” said Caleb.  

But the race, like marriage, is all about the journey and the companion.  

“It was a crazy experience,” Justine said, “good thing he’s tall.”