The Beer Mile is a 1609 meter race (which equals one mile) in which participants run four laps around the stadium, drinking a bottle (0.35 l) of beer at the beginning of each lap.
Beermile.com has registered over 7,000 beer races. Austin, Texas hosted the first Beer Mile World Championship in 2014.
The format did not immediately become popular and began as an ordinary university hobby.
Beer mile: the beginning
Today, Beer Mile members train in running clubs, university and Olympic teams around the world. And the guys who once came up with this unusual race were teachers, accountants, IT managers. In a word, these are ordinary people who may well turn out to be someone’s neighbors.
But in 1989, on a foggy August night, seven two-year-old Canadian runners just wanted to have fun.
They became friends at school, participating in various competitions together – 17-year-old Graham Hood, the future Olympian at a distance of 1500 meters, and 26-year-old Kelly Harris, who coached several guys from the city running team.
Graham and Kelly told their friends about their plan: to drink four beers and run four laps – beer, circle, beer, circle, and so on.
The offer “one beer per round” was cool, and the “mile” became the main summer entertainment.
Acting as planned, they brought beer to the school and infiltrated the school stadium. The track, hidden from prying eyes, turned out to be a suitable place for a night race. At the start line, each participant placed four cans of beer in front of him. As soon as it got dark, the action began.
Everyone ran the first lap at an excellent pace. At first, the discomfort was not so strong, but after two or three laps, the beer and stomachs did not get along anymore. They thought that the main problem would be alcohol, but that was not the case! The belching eased somewhat the discomfort caused by carbon dioxide, but those who did not have this special skill felt like a shaken can of Coca-Cola.
“The fourth circle is blurry, barely surviving,” says Harris. At the end of the race, the contents of his stomach were on the ground, but he managed to keep up the pace and he finished in third place.
The others did not like this strategy. By removing the most difficult obstacle – a full stomach, he got an unfair advantage. That night that the first rule appeared: “an extra circle to the one whose beer gets outside.”
After graduating from college, it was decided to keep the beer mile. Being students at Kingston University, Ian Fallas and Rob Old gathered a large following. Since 1992, the Beer Mile has been held at Richardson University Stadium at dusk for four years in a row to avoid drawing security attention.
The races were planned in advance so that participation in them did not interfere with the main training sessions.
“We didn’t drink during the season. Only at the end of it; and the rest of the year, most of us behaved pretty well,” adds Arsenault, who no longer drinks beer due to heartburn.
Beer mile rules
At first, the rules of the race were simply pronounced and supplemented as needed: no straws and additional holes. It is forbidden to use cans of beer with a wide neck (however, such cans soon became commonplace). It is forbidden to drink light beer at a distance – it must contain at least 5% alcohol. Beer must be opened and drunk in a designated 10-meter area. And the main thing is beer and nothing but beer.
The new rules were followed by new records. In 1993, Ian Fallas ran the 6:30 mile.
“I was wearing skateboard shoes,” says Maykalak. “I thought it was a stupid idea! I’ll just go see it and have a beer at the same time. But I could not resist, and I started right in these boots and then had problems with ligaments throughout the fall season. ”
The rules for the races were known but only followed in a few Canadian universities, communicated directly and via email within the athletics community.
Al Pribaz, the unofficial beer mile record holder, learned that competitions like this are increasingly taking place in Canada and the United States. He wanted to compare the results, but most of the races were carried out according to impromptu rules: the alcohol content varied greatly, some men rank from plastic glasses, which made it possible to avoid the action of carbon dioxide.
Therefore, in 1993, the official Kingstone rules were written. The points indicated exactly where the beer should be drunk, the alcohol content, the amount, capacity, the penalty loop for the one who vomited, as well as restrictive measures against those who interfere or offer to drink some water.
Pribaz sent out the rules by e-mail, urging everyone to have uniform standards for the “beer mile”. As a result, the results of the races began to come to him, and Pribaz created the website “Kingston Beer Mile Homepage”, where he published them.
A few years later, the site was noticed by Patrick Butler, a computer science graduate from Connecticut. A very strong track and field athlete, Butler found his calling by winning his first beer mile at school with a 9:12 score and got hooked on it.
In his final year at university, Butler tracked over a hundred beer miles and posted them on a small track and field website, urging that races be run entirely by Kingston’s rules.
Beermile.com has become the premier source of information for anyone interested in running booze. Beginners could read the rules, and veterans entered their details and controlled the leaderboard. Athletes not only from the USA and Canada but also from other countries could register their results on the site.
With the advent of Google, information on beer races and their participants has become easier available.
“In the early 2000s,” says Butler, “I got a lot of messages from people asking, ‘Hey, can you take my name off? Look, I’m really proud of the result, but it immediately shows up in search engines, and I need to get a job.”
With the advent of the Internet, beer races became available to everyone, and the participation of representatives of the sport’s elite added ambition to the competition.
In 2005, Canadian champion, marathon runner Jim Finlayson ran a mile at a local fundraiser. He chose the 4% Guinness beer to his taste, knowing that it did not meet the accepted rules. His 5:13 time, although unofficial, was astounding – almost 30 seconds faster than the previous record. “I thought it was going to be much worse,” Finlayson said.
In 2012, Nick Simmonds, an Olympic 800 meter competitor, wondered if he could run a beer mile. Nick decided to break the 5:02 record that existed at the time and post the video on YouTube.
“I’m trying to increase the popularity of athletics by targeting those who don’t care about my Olympics,” he says. “We must do as much as possible to draw attention to the beer mile.
Simmonds completed all four laps in 5:19 (this is the American record that held until Nielsen) but felt terrible afterwards.
“The worst thing is when you burp while running and you try to breathe. Then he gets a cramp, and you need to run on. This pain is absolutely unlike anything. ”
The video with his record has received over 100,000 views.
James Nielsen, an athlete who broke the 4-minute hurdle at Oxford, was inspired by the achievement of Roger Bannister. He ran the college national beer mile in 5:17 and set an equally challenging goal of running four laps in less than 5 minutes.
For a whole year, he trained his legs and stomach to overcome a barrier that has become almost as legendary in certain circles as the record set in his time by Banister. And he succeeded – 4:57.
Today, the champion of the “beer mile” is Cana dez Corey Bellemore, who ran the distance in 4:33 in San Francisco.
What is the secret of the “beer mile” popularity?
The creators of the “beer mile” could not even imagine that the entertainment invented for fun would spread so quickly and become a sensation.
Perhaps the popularity of the race is a sign of the times. One of the pioneers of the mile, Markell, believes that the competition has simply reached its critical mass.
“Even ordinary guys wonder if they can come to the finish line. Mile has long gone beyond remarks that this is some kind of unhealthy hobby and has become a challenge that demonstrates the physical capabilities of a person. ”
“People love the competition,” says Marc Floreani, co-founder of FloTrack. “The Beer Mile shows courage and competition. Moreover, it is entertainment that is always interesting to watch. ”
It also strengthens relationships. “Long-distance running has always had a camaraderie that often translates into friendship in everyday life,” says Markell.
“The hobby for beer races is a rather strange but natural continuation of the social aspect. Why not take challenges together while doing something fun? I am sure the popularity of the beer mile will continue to grow. It’s fun and challenging at the same time and has finally moved beyond the narrow group in the running community. ”
Finding venues for the beer mile is not easy. Laws prohibit open drinking in public places such as parks and school grounds. There are cases when athletes from universities were suspended from competitions for violations.
The constant search for places for the races significantly complicates the life of the organizers but does not affect the attraction of athletes and beer to each other.
“There is a tradition in running culture to hang out with a beer after a race, and that’s why there was a desire to unite the activities,” says Ian Fallas. “In general, the beer mile is exactly what you need.”