|Julia Galvin from Ireland
My name is Julia Galvin from Ireland. I have been competing at Eukonkannon MM-kisat since 2003. I still can’t spell that word after all this years let alone to pronounce it!
I’m a finer specimen of a woman (i.e. bigger) than most women that enter this World Championships. Some people have asked in the past if I find it troublesome competing with the 49kg ladies. I simply tell them the objects of the race, namely 1. Win the woman’s weight in beer and 2. Have fun!
Coming to Finland for the first time in 2003 I had many preconceptions about the place, I thought that it would be colder, greyer, windier and wetter than Ireland. That everybody had a reindeer and that not one person would understand me!
Wowee! I was blown straight out of the water on all accounts! Most people in Ireland go to the south of Europe for a "sun holiday". I have been advising all my friends to come to Finland, where 24hr sunshine and clean and active living is the order of the day.
Food, fishing, saunas, lake swimming, BBQ’s and parties all the time, the Finns put down a great summer of entertaining themselves and their neighbours. Their gardens are lush and full of beautiful flowers. You may think I’m painting a "Too Beautiful" image of the place but believe me, come here and see for yourself.
Unlike the Irish, the Finns are a little more reserved at the start but "to know a Finn is to love a Finn"! Once you get past that austere shell you will
find the most loving, giving, spiritual and hilarious people that love to talk!
I love them so much I came back to see the winter, it’s snowing and last night it was -17c! Ireland has a temperate climate so anything below -4c is a great cause of excitement for me. The houses are hot and snow is just like sugar, crunchy underfoot - not the best for making snowmen!
Speaking of men - I must say the Finnish men are very beautiful! Other scenery includes Christmas trees, green in the summer and white in the winter and lakes, dark and bottomless in the summer and solid ice in the winter. Cross country skiing is a local activity in the winter that I’m going to try today!
The race itself? On the day about 8000 spectators come to watch at the local school running track, some people come in fancy dress, some in the latest high tech running gear. The most competitive are the Estonians, they have been winning this race for years! Every year they have a new way of carrying or jumping.
I had the honour of being carried by former world champion Margo Uusorg in 2007. It was an experience I’m unlikely to forget! I came 29th out
of the 44 couples. Not bad considering I have always come last in previous years.
I don’t know who is going to carry me in 2008 but I know I will see you there!
Kate and Gil from Boston, USA
This is our wife carrying experience....
We had been travelling in Europe for almost 8 weeks and were planning on meeting up with a friend from Boston who was already competing in the event. We really had no idea where we were or what to expect.
When we finally arrived in Sonkajarvi, we expected to see tons of people, signs to designate where we could set up our tent, but we arrived early and after following some signs that had what we thought were camping signs, we realized there were leading us no where. After following some more signs that we thought were for the tourist information, we found ourselves on a tour of a bottle museum. The tour was interesting, except we had been already walking for hours, with our bags on, and as we took the hour long tour (bags still on back) we very carefully tried not to knock anything over. Did I mention the tour was in half English and half Finnish?
After the tour we left in hopes that we would find an inconspicuous place to camp. We ended up going to the library to check the internet, but no luck it was closed. So we saw some woods behind the library and ended up running back there and pitching our tent... Little did we know we were camping in a swamp....
Anyway the next day we just happened to run in to our friend, who was being chauffeured around. He and his partner and one of the guides told us to meet them over by the entrance. This is when everything changed. We met up with you guys and you gave us passes to walk around as though we were competitors. We were telling our previous days experience and you insisted that we stay where the other competitors were staying, in houses! It was music to our ears.
Once everyone realized that we had come this way to watch the event, I guess it just wasn’t good enough, and so we were told that we should run in the race too! It presented a little bit of a problem since there were couples already pared up and we would create an odd number, but we would figure it out. So we became royalty- or at least it felt like that- We were given everything the competitors were and the generosity was so overwhelming. We spent the night before the race, being treated as though we were running in the vent the next day.
We met other teams, the Germans, Julia of course and her iron man, the other Americans, the Estonian brothers, and all of the people involved with making this amazing event happen in Sonkajarvi. We partied hard the night before the race, meeting more people and feeling so thankful and truly happy.
Race day came and about 30 minutes before the first couples ran on the course, we were told that we WOULD in fact be running! We were scared and so so so excited. A young girl from Sonkajarvi said that she would participate so that we could have another couple to run against. It was so nice because you could tell it wasn’t what she really wanted to do.
So we watched everyone else run, the Estonians, the Finns, the 2 other American’s, The Irish, The Germans, a Lion and a hippy, two safari guides, a gorilla and we cheered as loud as we could for all of them! When it came our turn, I just really sat there and held on, Gil ran until we got to the hurdles and then slowly got one leg after the other over both.
But we finished. It was awesome.
We all partied together that night. Eating those little fishes and drinking more OLVI than I could even imagine! Dancing and signing. It was great. So much fun- We partied until the wee morning hours, and met some more people from Sonkajarvi that we staying in the houses next to us. Just talking and laughing, sharing stories and realizing that we were just so lucky.
The next day was so much fun- it was all of us- do you remember? And we swam in the lake-And we BBQ’ed and hung out all day long. It was so bittersweet for us, because it was so lovely and such a moment that we could have never imagined only 3 days before as we lay in the swamp hoping that it would get darker than it did in Helsinki or Iisalmi. (which it didn’t). It was priceless, but we knew it was fleeting.
We said good bye to Sonkajarvi the next day, knowing that it would be a while before we could return. But we didn’t leave our friends. We spent the next week travelling with the German couple. They had another week in their trip and they invited us to come with them to their hotel and hang out. So we stayed with them a night or two and we travelled further to camp all together. It was so much fun.
We then travelled to Estonia, where we met up with one of the Estonia Brothers who sent us next to Stockholm to see the other. Truly Amazing.
Long story short: Our wife carrying experience was not only one of the best experiences of our travels, but of our lives. We could have never imagined what to expect and could never expect anything better....
We will be back when we have the time and money- We think about it every year as we sit and celebrate July 4th- That we would give anything to be back in Sonkajarvi.
Kate and Gil
Jim & Susan Lafferty
It was a great experience and am sure we shall return in the coming years at some point. We have very fond memories of the days we spent in Sonkajarvi and of the warm hospitality.
You all do a great job and it is truly a unique and wonderful event.
I would just again let you know how much we enjoyed our short stay in Sonkajarvi. Jim wears his wife carrying tshirt all the time. People ask about it too. We encourage people to check out the website. We were treated little celebrities and it was wonderful. We will always remember it. Hopefully we will return soon.
Jim & Susan Lafferty