The 15th North American Wife Carrying Championship were held this weekend at Sunday River ski resort in Newry, Maine. Fifty couples raced along a 278-yard (254-metre) course with the women mostly clinging upside down to the men's backs.

North American Wife Carrying Championships
Contestants leave the starting line to compete in the North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River ski resort in Newry, MaineBrian Snyder/Reuters
North American Wife Carrying Championships
Jeff and Kelly Lyons clear the first obstacleBrian Snyder/Reuters

The race, which originated in Finland, is intended to evoke the spirit of a legendary Finnish highwayman, Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, who made those who wanted to join his gang run through a forest carrying heavy sacks on their backs.

In the modern version, couples race along a track, tackling mud, a pool and hurdles, with the men carrying the women on their backs. Most "wives" are volunteers.

North American Wife Carrying Championships
Ian Beall carries Susan Beall over the second obstacleBrian Snyder/Reuters
North American Wife Carrying Championships
Shane Arnold and Brandy Bates clear the second obstacle ahead of Ian and Susan BellBrian Snyder/Reuters
North American Wife Carrying Championships
Richard Cannon carries Annie Leslie through the water pitBrian Snyder/Reuters
North American Wife Carrying Championships
Seth Swanberg carries Lisa Swanberg through the water pitBrian Snyder/Reuters
North American Wife Carrying Championships
Jesse Wall carries Christina Arsenault through the water pitBrian Snyder/Reuters

Maine couple Jesse Wall and Christina Arsenault won the event. They have been competing since 2010, with two second-place results and two third-place finishes, before claiming their first North American title with a time of 1:04.10.

"It feels absolutely incredible to finally be the winners," said Wall. "As a local guy who skis Sunday River all the time – and I'm getting married here next June. So it will probably be the last time."

North American Wife Carrying Championships
Christina Arsenault and Jesse Wall celebrate after winning the North American Wife Carrying ChampionshipBrian Snyder/Reuters
North American Wife Carrying Championships
Christina Arsenault balances on a see-saw to claim the first place prize of her weight in beerBrian Snyder/Reuters

Wall and Arsenault took home Arsenault's weight in beer and cider as well as five times her weight in cash for a grand total of $482.50 (about £300).