Running around a track in Beijing? Boring. Try wife-carrying or dog-surfing
The “Estonian carry” is the most popular technique among competitors in the American Wife Carrying Championships held each October at the mountain resort of Sunday River. Wives are hoisted with their legs over their husbands’ shoulders and grip their partners’ waists from behind. The course covers 278m, with several hurdles and a water hazard. Winners are presented with their wife’s weight in beer. A British tour operator, Bon Voyage, arranges trips.
Participants race up 1,093 stairs in the Banyan Tree’s 61-floor hotel – in an annual reminder of why lifts were invented. The “finish line” is a former helicopter pad that has been turned into a restaurant. Here, cocktails are served to quench runners’ thirst. The event is held each September and is open to anyone, with an entrance fee of £5 and money raised in sponsorship going to a local HIV charity run by the Thai Red Cross. The record is 6min 16sec.
Forget the “Downward Facing Dog”, this is uplifting stuff. No training is needed for “laughter yoga”, developed by Dr Madan Kataria to relieve stress. Rhythmic clapping and chants of “Ho, ho, ho. Ha, ha, ha” lead to laughter, which is said to improve health and promote inner peace. Cox & Kings offers trips.
Each Easter Day the inhabitants of the villages of Hallaton and Medbourne “kick” – or rather heave, push, wallop and do whatever they can to move – three kegs of beer for a mile between two streams.
The kegs, which are dressed in ribbons, are called bottles; hence the sport’s name. Each bottle is controlled by a “scrum” of locals, who negotiate ditches, hedges and barbed wire fences. To make things even trickier, the scrums must also carry large “hare pies”. The event originated in the 1700s when two local women were saved from a raging bull after a hare startled the animal; they donated money to the Church to go towards beer and hare pie for the poor.
Not for the faint-hearted. To celebrate happy occasions, groups of men in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, take to the polo field – but with the carcass of a beheaded goat as the “ball”.
Goat polo dates back centuries when horsemen who had killed a wolf that had been attacking their livestock used the carcass in such games. Laurence Mitchell, author of the Bradt Guide to Kyrgyzstan, who has seen goat polo, said: “The rules are loose. It’s anarchic and macho.”
Forget the 100m dash or marathon – for the ultimate sporting challenge, look no farther than “chess-boxing”. The World Chess Boxing Organisation, which lists events on its website www.wcbo.org, says that chess boxing combines “the number one thinking sport with the number one fighting sport”.
Contests consist of 11 rounds, with six involving chess and five boxing. The chess rounds last 12 minutes and include moves of four minutes’ maximum. Then there is a gap of a minute and participants box for three minutes. A win can come from a knockout, a referee ending a fight, a points victory in boxing, or from a chess move that leads to a checkmate.
BOB LIKE A BUOY
On Lake Lammasjarvi in Finland, locals and tourists don oversized dry suits that are pumped full of air, allowing participants in this obscure activity to “bob around happily in the water like a collection of unanchored buoys”. That is the description given by Crystal Lakes, a travel company that offers bobbing holidays.
Adventurous bobbers are taken to a 200m stretch of rapids, where they can “float down like a huge piece of debris”. Organisers say that the experience of whizzing down the river is “like canoeing without the canoe”.
Doggy paddle is viewed as cheating in this sport in which as many as 50 dogs a year take to the waves with their owners. The coolest dogs wear Hawaiian shorts and sunglasses, and there are several categories covering big dogs, small dogs and owner-and-dog (for inspiration, see the YouTube clip on the website of the international dog surfing championship, held at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, near San Diego). The event is held each June. A labrador, a spaniel and a jack russell were among the winners this year.
Fat lips are not just for boxers, but are also a common hazard in one of Britain’s weirdest “sports”: nettle-eating. Swollen tongues are another problem facing participants in this odd pursuit that has world championships every June in the West Dorset village of Marshwood.
The winner is judged to be the person who has eaten the most nettles in an hour. Participants come from as far away as Australia, according to Dorset Costal Cottages, which organises nettle-eating trips.
The championships have been running for 22 years and came out of a dispute in 1986 between two farmers who each argued that they possessed the longest nettles.
In the harbour town of Juelsminde in Jutland, groups of locals compete each August to see how long they can sit on wooden poles. The maximum period allowed is four days – if more than one person lasts this long, they are both considered to be champion pole-sitters.
The sport came about centuries ago when locals decided to see how long they could balance on poles placed in the sea to prevent attacks from Norway. The Danish Tourist Board describes the pole-sitters as “the pole sitting people in the sea” and a spokeswoman assured me that she was not making it up. “All this is true,” she said.
Coffin-racing is all the rage in Manitou Springs, Colorado, each October, while Australians compete in “bottomless bathtubs and marine vessels” in a dried-out riverbed in Alice Springs next month.
Alternatively, there are annual crab races at Olhuveli Beach and Spa Resort in the Maldives each year, as well as a frog- jumping competition each May in Calaveras, California, inspired by the Mark Twain short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.