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Carry on running: Finnish couple wins international 'wife carrying' obstacle race

Ville Parviainen and Janette Oksman from Vantaa, Finland go on to win the Wife Carrying World Championships, held in Sonkajarvi, Finland, Saturday, 5 July, 2014. (AP Photo/Pekka Moliis, Lehtikuva) FINLAND OUT

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Ville Parviainen and Janette Oksman from Vantaa, Finland go on to win the Wife Carrying World Championships, held in Sonkajarvi, Finland, Saturday, 5 July, 2014. (AP Photo/Pekka Moliis, Lehtikuva) FINLAND OUT

HELSINKI - A Finnish couple has narrowly won the 19th World Wife Carrying Championships — a quirky competition in which men race to be the fastest while carrying a female teammate.

Ville Parviainen and Janette Oksman cleared the grueling 253.5 metre (278-yard) obstacle course in 63.75 seconds on Saturday, less than a second ahead of Britain's Rich Blake Smith and Anna Marguerite Smith.

Thirty-six couples from a dozen countries including Australia, Japan, and the United States took part in the race, which was held in the central Finnish municipality of Sonkajarvi, north of the capital, Helsinki.

The rules stipulate that the woman must be over 17 years of age and weigh at least 49 kilograms (108 lb). Despite the event's name couples don't have to be married, and organizers say male contestants could "borrow a neighbour's wife" if they didn't have a female companion.

The men can carry their teammate in various ways, though a popular method is for the woman to hang upside-down with her legs around the male contestant's shoulders.

Finland has established itself as a prime venue for unusual events including international air guitar, swamp soccer and mobile phone throwing competitions.

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