NEWRY — Shane Arnold of Pocatello, Idaho, didn’t win Saturday’s North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River Ski Resort.
But he was the only guy who won a wife-to-be.
After carrying his girlfriend, Brandy Bates, also of Pocatello, upside down on his back for 278 yards and crossing the finish line, Arnold popped the question in front of several hundred shocked onlookers.
Bates, very surprised, was still trying to catch her breath from being jostled over two log hurdles and through the “widow maker” water hazard, so it took a while before she said yes.
The crowd responded with a loud “whoosh” from many who had held their breath waiting for Bates to answer. Then they erupted in hoots and hollers and loud applause that quickly overspread the venue as equally surprised event emcees Caroline Ochtera and Jake Treadwell ad-libbed over the sound system what had just happened.
“It was shocking,” Bates said afterward of Arnold’s proposal.
Prior to asking her, Arnold was walking backward up the hill while trying desperately to untie the engagement ring from the drawstring of his shorts.
“I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t proceeding toward the crowd and he was backing up the hill, so it was pretty surprising,” Bates said.
Arnold said he had rehearsed taking a knee to propose, but after running the course with Bates on his back, his leg muscles had the consistency of jelly and were still shaking.
“Lucky for me, we came across the line and they were interviewing the couple we had raced against from Colorado,” Arnold said of a TV crew.
“And I had tied the ring in my shorts string in a Boy Scout knot and so I was fighting with that knot and I look up and the camera guy was focusing on me and here I am messing with my shorts,” Arnold said as Bates laughed.
After the guy focused the camera elsewhere, Arnold fished the ring out of his shorts, and asked Bates to marry him.
They’ve been together for three years and have seven children between them.
The couple finished the qualifying run in 1 minute, 53 seconds.
“I was blown away by how hard the top of the hill was,” Arnold said. “I’d been running and I said, ‘I’ve got this.’ But, man, the locomotive was out of steam when I got up there.”
To train for the competition, Arnold, who is a landscaper, said his boss let him set up an obstacle course — complete with Jersey barriers — to train on while carrying Bates on his back.
“The guy who won this, he’s just unbelievable,” Arnold said of Jesse Wall of South Paris. “He deserves to win by far and he earned it today. That’s a hard run.”
Bates and Arnold live near the Pebble Creek Ski Area in Inkom, Idaho, and hope to start a wife-carrying event there “because it’s so much fun,” Arnold said.
“We haven’t been by ourselves all summer, so this is a great way to get away and we’re going to enjoy the next week in New England and go wherever we want to go,” he said.
And even though Bates accepted his proposal, they have no idea when they will tie “the other” knot.
“But we’ll have to come back next year as husband and wife,” Bates said.