How to Win:
A conversation with two-time North American Wife Carrying Championship winner Jesse Wall
The North American Wife Carrying Championship returns next weekend, Saturday, October 8. While many have competed in this outrageous-yet-challenging event, Jesse Wall and his competition partner, Christine Arsenault, are no strangers to the event: their team, Cure Mito, has raced in the event 9 times, and they've won twice - first in 2014 and then again in 2018. We spoke to Jesse about his experience competing, as well as what it was like to go to the World Championships of Wife Carrying in Finland. You'll find the conversation below - it has been edited for clarity and length.
Sunday River: So, tell me a little about yourself and how you discovered this event.
Jesse Wall: Yeah. So my name is Jesse Wall. I'm the owner of TruStrength Athletics, a sports performance company that's been running the past 14 years. For the last two years, we've been in the Oxford Hills area working with athletes at every level, from recreational to college and professional.
I found out about the event through my work. It was 2010 and I was coaching in Portland and a lady that was taking some of my programs, Christine [Arsenault] said, "you know, we ought to do this; you're wicked strong and I'm wicked small. And it seems like a great opportunity to just go out and have some fun. And I think we could win." And so I was like, All right, I'm game. I love competition, so why not?
SR: Love that. And have you two been partners every time you've competed?
JW: Yeah. No, I've had the same partner every time. It was Christine Arsenault. And we've always been partners. She's amazing and just as competitive as me. So we started in 2010, and we did the first five years of all consecutive and we [kept placing] second place, third place, second place, third place. And I just couldn't stand not winning, right? Yeah. Like, oh, my God, we can't be this close and not do it. And I really wanted to win for Christine’s daughters. They were always so excited for the event. And that motivated me. And so year five, we ended up winning the championship.
SR: So 2014 was the first year you won. Did you do any kind of specific training for the event?
JW: I just jumped into it, but, you know, I keep myself in good shape all year round, because of my work.
SR: Gotcha. And when did you go to Finland for the World Championships?
JW: So we really start fundraising to go that that winter, in 2015. But unfortunately, in late winter, early spring, I had a major ice climbing accident. 25-foot fall and snapped my lower leg, shattered my ankle. So I was not in any shape to go to Finland in 2015. So, even though we weren’t technically reigning champs in 2015, we still wanted to go and went to the 2016 World Championships.
We went in 2016, even though I was still not quite recovered. I gave my best shot! I think we came in fifth or sixth, and it just was a entirely different course, like nothing that I had strategically thought about.
SR: So you went to Finland in 2016. What was that experience like?
JW: Yeah. So, we went over for the week. We had a host that traveled us around in terms of getting us back and forth to the festival, and the locals just kind of showed us all around there, too. We did some local museums, and just did some eating and shopping and stuff like that.
The people are incredibly friendly. And, you know, there's more dress up and more costumes during the event than here in North America. Like people are really go all out, even the competitive teams. They are serious athletes, but they like to keep it fun, because they realize the ridiculousness.
SR: Wow, that's amazing. I'm so glad you guys were able to go. I just have one last question for you. Without giving away any of your trade secrets, do you have any advice for first-time competitors taking on this challenge?
JW: Oh, man. Okay, advice for a newbie: the Estonian Carry is the only way, unless you’re really in it for the insanity and the fun, but you’ve gotta do the Estonian. And I would also say that the “wife” is in charge of winning more often than the guys. A horse is only as good as its rider.
SR: Awesome, thank you Jesse. No pressure, but will you be competing this year?
JW: Who knows? Hopefully, we'll see. If I'm coming back, I'm coming for the top of that box again.
SR: That's what we like to hear.
Stay tuned for a conversation with Jesse's competition partner, Christine Arsenault!
Abby grew up skiing all over New England, but now calls Sunday River home. Her favorite trail is Right Stuff. If she's not shredding the mountain, you can find her biking the trails in Bethel Village or chowing down on some famous Foggy Goggle nachos.