Running a beer mile is no easy task. Sure, it sounds simple: pound a 12-ounce beer, run a lap on a track and repeat three more times as quickly as possible without puking. But having the fitness to run a fast-ish mile is only part of the gig. Here are some insights from three elite runners who have successfully run some fast beer mile times.
Choosing the right beer is the first step in running a successful beer mile. To follow official regulations (aka, “The Kingston Rules”), your beer must have at least a 5 percent alcohol content. However, not all beers are created equal. Mass-produced lighter beers with higher water content like Keystone Ice, Natural Light and Busch Light are often the beer of choice for top beer milers, although James Nielsen’s 4:57.1 world record was set while drinking Budweiser. “It’s important to choose a beer that’s close to 5 percent and smooth in terms of carbonation,” says Michael Cunningham, a sub-4:00 miler from Brewster, N.Y., who owns a 5:07.95 beer-mile PR. “Personal taste preference also comes into play, as the beer should be pretty tolerable in order to keep down the 48 ounces consumed in only a few minutes.”
Learning how to drink beers quickly is an important skill. It’s important to remain calm and drink gradually, so as not to gag while swallowing or getting a mouth full of foam. And yes, training helps. “I’ll practice holding my breath for 1 minute, then immediately drink a beer as quickly as possible,” says Canadian Jim Finlayson, who owns a 5:09 beer-mile PR. Fellow Canadian Lewis Kent (a 5:01 beer-miler) practices by quickly draining four beers in training and, more regularly, pounding 12 ounces of water from beer bottles. “You have to make sure your stomach is ready for that much liquid on race day,” Lewis says. Many top beer-milers say having the beer at room temperature—or at least removed from the refrigerator 30-60 minutes prior to running—makes it easier to digest.
There isn’t any real science to drinking four beers during a mile race, but you should heed the physics. It’s not the alcohol that creates challenges—well, at least not until about 5 minutes after you finish—it’s the sloshing of liquid and the carbonation in your stomach that’s the main problem. “Use smooth handling techniques while opening and chugging to prevent the beer from fizzing as much as possible, and be conservative early in the race—especially with the first beer—in terms of drinking speed and running pace,” Cunningham says. “Definitely slow down to avoid vomiting so you don’t get DQ’ed!” Also, try to get rid of as much carbonation in your stomach as possible after the completion of each beer. In other words, don’t be shy about letting out a big burp or many!