The inaugural Beer Mile World Classic took place in San Francisco over the Aug. 22nd weekend, and while Lewis Kent and Caitlin Judd took home the titles, they may have a new challenger on their hands. If you’ve never heard of the Beer Mile before, it’s a pretty simple concept: chug a beer, run a quarter mile and repeat until you've downed four beers and run a full mile.
When my friend Ian invited me to run the Beer Mile at his gym, CrossFit Greenpoint, I didn’t jump on board right away. I had read about it and given heavy consideration to running it in the past, but had always opted out. This time I finally concluded that I love beer, and I enjoy running—why not combine the two to see what happens? In hindsight, that was a terrible rationale, but it made plenty of sense at the time (I may or may not have been a few drinks deep at the time I committed to running the race).
I made my first rookie mistake right when I woke up on race day: I carb-loaded with a big breakfast as if I were preparing for one of my long runs. As I took the short train ride over to the gym, I could only chastise myself for filling up with food and dooming myself to probably spending time hunched over, vomiting the contents of my stomach onto the pavement.
When I got to the gym, everyone was in good spirits and seemed excited about running the race. Talking to a number of the other contestants, I asked what their goal times were, and everyone more or less gave one of two answers: “The goal is not to puke” and “I’d feel pretty happy with anything under 10 minutes.” That’s exactly what I wanted to hear because I placed the utmost importance on the former and felt that I could somewhat comfortably beat the latter.
There were 19 runners, so we broke up into groups no larger than five. Due to the way the course was set up, we ran in staggered heats so as not to congest the running lanes. I was in heat three, so we waited near the start line as the first two groups got underway. I must also make note that we drank out of red solo cups instead of cans, as is stipulated in the official rules.
When it was our time to ready up, we each grabbed a beer and neared the start line. I am by no means a champion beer chugger, but I can more than hold my own. Getting the first beer down was easy, and I was off to the races. I started at a relatively brisk pace, jogging along as I got a feel for what it’s like to attempt any sort of physical activity after chugging a beer. After getting through the first quarter mile, I felt comfortable enough to speed up.
The second beer wasn’t necessarily difficult to down, but it was nowhere near as quick as the first. I was at least able to chug the whole thing straight, and off again I went, going along at a much quicker pace. Once I got to that third beer, that’s when a straight chug became a series of shorter gulps. I was breathing heavier, and keeping all that beer down suddenly became difficult. When I finally got it down, I tossed my cup into the trash and took off again.
By the time I got to that fourth beer it became a struggle. Hand on my side, taking deep breaths, I took my time getting the last of the suds down. At that moment, I understood what Adam Richman must’ve felt like as he neared the end of one of his food challenges on Man vs. Food. The running was the easy part; getting and keeping the beer down was the challenge.
Going into the race, I knew that I should reserve the last of my energy to sprint all out after my fourth beer, knowing that I wouldn't have to chug another beer with the end in sight. But seeing one of my fellow runners vomiting on the side made me pause going into the final lap, and I restrained myself through the first half of the last go round. However, once I came around to the final stretch of the race, I thought, “Screw this” and ran at full speed to the finish line.
I finished a shade under 8:30, which I felt good about since I was aiming to get anywhere under nine minutes. On a good day, I can run close to a six-minute mile and possibly even get a sub-six time (I haven’t attempted a timed one-mile run in a while). So, if you factor in the four beers, my trepidation to go too fast for fear of vomiting and it being my first time, I’m more than confident that I can easily shave over 30 seconds off that time. I accomplished my main goal, which was to get through the race with my breakfast still intact. However, I know I can do better now that I have a Beer Mile under my belt, and I can’t wait to try it again.