Mastering the Beer Mile
I very rarely bring up my participation in the beer mile, especially around someone I just met or in a professional setting. It is impossible to foresee how someone may react to such disclosure about a relatively unknown, quirky sport. More often than not in a group setting, however, one of my friends will gladly offer up a statement like, "So... have you heard of the beer mile? No? Chris, tell them about the beer mile!" Even in the confines of a work environment, the reaction is overwhelmingly positive and leads to farcical conversation.
During these conversations, I am regularly asked the same general questions, so I figured why not share-all and enlighten the few people that are interested. If you require some additional background about the beer mile you can peruse the following links. For the official beer mile results database and top performances list, check out beermile.com. To learn more about the Beer Mile World Classic, the international beer mile world championship hosted annually, head over to beermileworldclassic.com.
Beer Mile Inception
The beer mile is a common season-end endeavor for collegiate cross country and track and field teams. It is a fun way to blow off steam at the end of a season and compete for bragging rights among teammates. My collegiate running club was no exception. After watching my teammates partake a couple of times, I joined in on the action. My first time I ran 7:11, which is decent but nowhere near exceptional.
First International Competition
I continued to partake in a few beer miles a year while in college and steadily improved over time. I submitted results to beermile.com for one of our races where I ran 5:28. That led to an email from Flotrack inviting me to compete in the 2015 Flotrack Beer Mile Championships in Austin, TX. I got absolutely destroyed in that race, finishing in 5:16 (about 30 seconds behind the winner). However, I noticed that my running splits were the fastest of everyone in that race, so I was determined to improve my chugging technique so that I could put myself in position to compete.
I have improved both my time and place in each of my international races since Flotrack 2015. It wasn't until the summer of 2017 that I really figured out how to chug just as well out of breath as when rested. That was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to breakthrough to the point I could truly compete. In the summer of 2017, I ran 4:46 to set the American Record and won my first international title. The irony is that I almost called off the time trial the day I set the American Record because my legs felt like garbage. That showed me that my plateau has still not been reached.
What's the Secret?
Spoiler: there is no secret. However, I have three sequential steps to success, which I am coining right here, right now.
The ability to drink 4 beers without being overly full, uncomfortable, or feeling the urge to throw up.
The ability to chug a beer in 5-6 seconds.
The ability to run fast.
First, your stomach has to be physically capable of holding 4 beers without throwing up and do so relatively comfortably so you can still run fast. This is a binary, check-list type item. Either you can handle it or you can't. I've noticed a common theme that the best beer milers are big eaters. Having a stretched out stomach certainly helps.
Second, you have to be able to chug a beer in 5-6 seconds. If you can't do this out of the gate, it's game over. More importantly, you have to be able to chug a beer in 6-7 seconds while out of breath. This is a skill that can be learned. More on this below.
After achieving the first two steps, it comes down to who the fastest runner is. As evidenced by Canadian Corey Bellemore's filthy 4:33 world record where he ran just over 4 minutes for the running portion, you have to be fast to be the GOAT.
Training for the Beer Mile
Training for the beer mile is really no different from training to run the mile sans beer. Around 85% of a beer mile race is spent running, which means improving running speed by 2% will have a greater overall reduction on your time than improving drinking speed by 2%. Further, there is a limit to the speed at which beer flows from a bottle anyway. Pretty much everybody in an elite beer mile race chugs the beers in the standard 5-7 seconds, so the differentiation between competitors comes down to the footrace.
As mentioned above, chugging technique is a skill that can be learned. The only 'training' I do specifically for a beer mile is to practice chugging water out of beer bottles. This allows you to practice both liquid volume and chugging speed in a healthy way without getting schnockered up. The video below shows a standard chugging sesh I try to do every couple of days to maintain chugging fitness.
Chugging Practice in Action
The Path Ahead
In the coming months, I hope to break my own American Record and chip away at the gap for the world record. I may even throw down a world record attempt at the Beer 2 Mile World Record (8 beers, 8 laps) if I am feeling extra thirsty. The current record is 11:39 held by the legend himself, Jim Finlayson. The season culminates with the 2018 Beer Mile World Classic in Vancouver on August 11, where I hope to inch a little closer to Bellemore.
The photos below are from the 2017 Beer Mile World Classic in London.
Start of the 2017 Beer Mile World Classic at Allianz Park in London, UK
Team USA Wins the 2017 Beer Mile World Classic at Allianz Park in London, UK
Nothing like a celebratory beer out of the trophy