On October 10th, 2015, Sunday River will again host the North American Wife Carrying Championships. This is a competition in which a “husband” carries his “wife” through a challenging obstacle course on the slopes of Sunday River, Maine. Last year’s winning female was 84 pounds. If she had gained three extra pounds before the competition would her team have won? What kind of diet gets a woman to 84 pounds? Did that competition help make her life better? I question Sunday River this: What kind of women do we want do we want to promote in this world? I want strong women, and I hope Sunday River joins me.
Human beings are faced with tremendous pressure from a young age. They are constantly bombarded with magazine covers, movies, television, and social pressure. I’ve known women who have modeled on magazine covers, and it sheds tremendous light on the difference between a magazine cover and reality. Make-up, lighting, photoshop, extreme diets, and body-shaping drugs such as steroids and HGH (human growth hormone) all dramatically change the way a person looks. It sets a very high bar for anybody to compare themselves to. Growing up watching Conan the Barbarian, many kids dreamed of being Arnold. They would sit in the mirror puffing out their chest, dreaming of having Arnold’s massive physique with rippling muscles bulging out. That teenager sitting in the mirror is insecure from the instabilities of entering adulthood, and he is dreaming of squashing his problems with humongous muscles. He hopes a different body will lead to more attention from the opposite sex. Entering adulthood is such a hard time, a time to find our way. When finding our way, the bumps are often many and the mistakes can ruin self-esteem. Combine all these factors, mix in some hormonal imbalances, and you create a powerful forge shaping a lifetime of altered self image.
In my first UFC fight, Shannon Gugerty took my back and choked me unconscious in less than 5 minutes. I’ve thought about those brief moments every single day since it’s passed. Impressions can be so powerful. What kind of impression should Sunday River look to instill in people? Participants in Sunday River’s competition are taking it very seriously, and winning teams will have trained hard. With Sunday River’s current format, the female competitor’s only real job is to be light. Nothing else matters but the number on the scale, so when she loses, what else does she have to reflect back on but her weight?
When Sarah and I competed, we agreed on her cutting five pounds and no more because her health and well being was more important than the competition. Sarah weighed in at 124 pounds, 40 pounds heavier than the competition’s eventual winner. Essentially Sarah had two things she could do to make us win: Hang on fearlessly and be as light as possible. Sarah is as crazy as they come fortunately, showcased by her death grip when dropped in a muddy puddle. She did 3.1 miles upside down on my back to practice, and albeit a bit of whining, she didn’t let go once. Grip-wise she was ready. Her strength is also part of the equation regarding grip. Sarah weighs 124 pounds because she is strong. Her back is built like an Eastern European gymnast.
I love strong women. Before last year’s wife carry, Sarah was grappling with our friend Mark and took his back and was trying to solicit a tap. Mark is a very solid 240lbs and the canoe-carrying champion of the world, and Sarah almost submitted him. Although Sarah did probably cheat Mark somehow, it still exemplifies her strength. It exemplifies the kind of girl I want in my life and the kind of girl that drives society forward. Competition should be a chance to develop grit and the ability to persevere. We should all be sharpening the proverbial spear on this mock field of battle. I say we develop that strength through competition and the preparation for it, then use it everyday in our lives. When life gets tough we use that grit we develop to persevere, for without perseverance we can’t accomplish great things.
Click here for Sarah’s perspective of the wife-carrying competition, where she tells her story of the pressure of the scale.