Easy to print version

The Art of Hanging On
UNHers excel in the "most fun" race of all
By Suki Casanave '86G

Sarah Silverberg '06G and Ri Fahnestock were sloshing through the mud pit when they knew they were going to pull off a win. Actually it was Fahnestock, who manages the wood shop in the art department at UNH, who was doing the sloshing. Silverberg, a research technician in UNH's Complex Systems Research Center, was clinging to his back—upside down—legs around his neck, arms around his waist, hanging on for dear life and trying to avoid gulping down a mouthful of muddy water. They were in the final stretch of the 9th Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship at the Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine, and their closest competitors had just taken a spill. Which gave Team Silverberg and Fahnestock the lead they needed to finish the 278-yard obstacle course in a winning 56.74 seconds, beating the second-place team by just one second. (The second-place finishers, Austin Stonebreaker '08G and Carrie Girod '05G, are also UNH alums—and buddies of the winners.)

Despite the name of the race, contestants do not have to be married to each other, and Silverberg and Fahnestock are not—they're just good friends. This year's vistory was especially sweet since they finished second last year. Along with winning Silverberg's weight in beer (five cases) and five times her weight in money ($610), the duo earned $1,000 toward travel costs should they decide to head to the 2009 wife-carrying world championships in Finland, where the sport originated. Stories of its beginnings include tales of men who courted their future wives by dashing into villages, hoisting the women over their shoulders and running off with them. (No record remains, alas, as to the effectiveness of this method.)

"It's surprisingly challenging," says Fahnestock, who competes in ultra marathons and trail running. This race is the most fun, he says: "It's utterly ridiculous." For her part, Silverberg, a former gymnast who has the flexibility and strength to hang on with no support from her partner, says her biggest challenge is breathing in synch with the running. "Do it the wrong way," she says, "and you feel like you're getting the wind knocked out of you over and over again."

Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents