The Beer Mile challenge is simple to explain, but harder to win than you’d think

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It should be said that there’s a significant difference between throwing up because you’re drunk and throwing up simply because you’ve had too much to drink.

But I’ll get to that. First, let me tell you a story.

The story begins in December 2015, with me sitting around with a bunch of runners at a restaurant drinking beer. Well… everyone was drinking beer except for my friend Kelly, who doesn’t drink. At all. So that’s why – after someone brought The Beer Mile into the conversation – I was taken aback when she said she’d consider trying it, and that’s why – when she argued that she could beat me in one – I laughed so hard that I.P.A. came out of my nose.

Beer Miles are pretty much the height of athletic inanity, a competition that seems ripped straight out of a movie like “Revenge of the Nerds.”

The challenge is simple to explain, though perhaps difficult for responsible adults to comprehend: You’re supposed to drink a beer, run a quarter-mile; drink a beer, run a quarter-mile; drink a beer, run a quarter-mile; and then – to cap it all off – you drink a beer and run a quarter-mile. Yes: That’s four beers, down your throat, and one mile of running. All done as fast as you possibly can.

Cut to one year later – this past December, when we finally set a date.

One thing you should know about me: I like beer. If you’re going to give me a choice between water and beer, I’ll take the beer, please. I’m also a decent runner, but I saw the beer part as my advantage. Of course, Kelly had an edge of her own: She’s a professional triathlete with the ability to run a mile (at least) a full minute faster than I can.

So let’s consider the training regimens.

Two weeks out from the race, I met another friend at a track near my house and brought along two 11.2-ounce cans of Stella Artois (not regulation, gotta be 12 ounces) and two 12-ounce bottles of O’Douls non-alcoholic beer (clearly not regulation, gotta be at least 5 percent ABV) for a test run. I didn’t record my splits and I gave myself some extra recovery time after the run legs, but all things considered, it went more quickly and painlessly than I was expecting. Lots of belching, but no “oh-no-I-think-this-might-be-more-than-a-belch” moments. 

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Then pretty much every night for more than a week, I’d drink a beer while my wife ran the stopwatch. By race week, I was consistently finishing in 15 seconds from the crack of the can to last drop.

Meanwhile, check out Kelly’s training plan:

Days 1-14: Drink no beer. Barely even think about the Beer Mile at all.

Day 15: Contemplate drinking a beer, but drink no beer.

Day 16: Look at beer in the grocery store – after asking Théoden where beer is sold in North Carolina – but buy kale and bananas instead.

Night Before Race: Visit parents’ house. Go to fridge. Select whatever beer Dad has four of.

OK, that’s not entirely fair. She did do one training session with two root beers.

Kelly and I decided to make the whole thing easier for our more-grown-up peers (and our parents) to stomach by using it as an opportunity to do some good. Both her father and my uncle are leukemia survivors, so we chose the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as the beneficiary for this ridiculous head-to-head contest and in just 18 days raised more than $6,000.

But there was still the small matter of Beer Mile bragging rights. And this is what I found while trying to secure my bragging rights: Beer Miles are terribly unpredictable beasts.

For instance, right before the gun goes off in the race, you might decide on the spot to let your competitor finish her first beer before you open yours, in a brash display of overconfidence. Or, someone who took more than two minutes to finish her second (ROOT) beer in practice might drain her second (REAL) beer on game day in less than half the time. Or, the beer-drinker who thought his stomach was made of iron might regurgitate foam after Beer 3 and midway through Beer 4.

And in the end, the underdog – the one who previously could count the number of beers she’d drank in her entire life on one hand – might manage to find a way to win, because elite athletes with high pain thresholds? That’s just how they do.

Now, I could use words to describe what this all actually looked like. But you could also just see what this all actually looked like. For your viewing pleasure, here is a video of the entire race, which took place last Saturday:

Like I said at the beginning: There’s a significant difference between throwing up because you’re drunk and throwing up simply because you’ve had too much to drink. As you saw, on this particular day, 48 ounces of beer in a matter of minutes was simply too much for me to drink.

But I’ll learn from my mistakes. I’ll choose a less-flavorful beer next time (Blue Moon is OUT). I won’t run 14 miles and then fry up five over-easy eggs a few hours before the race (I actually did this). I’ll try this tip I found on the Internet that supposedly suppresses the urge to gag (”clutch the thumb of your non-dominant hand; if you’re right-handed, clutch your left thumb with your index finger while you drink”).

And Kelly, when we face off in our re-match next January, there’s no way you’re getting a head start.

Photos: Theoden Janes

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