Once you’re done reading, check the video at the bottom for the full Beer Mile experience!
OK, so I should start by saying I use the term “Race Report” quite loosely in describing this post. This is more a loosely organized (but still competitive for many) event that is (I would hope) more a fun social event with a dash of athletics thrown in for a challenge. I recently seized the opportunity to participate in a Beer Mile in Toronto – honestly, I don’t even know who it was organized by or even where it was (until looking later at my Strava data, because of course I recorded it!) News of these things spreads and beer runners just show up. There is no registration, entry fee, t-shirt or timing chip (at least at this one.)
For those unfamiliar with a beer mile, you need only know this. Entrants must run a mile (1.6 kilometres), and consume 4 beers in the shortest elapsed time to win. The order of operations here is important: Start – beer, 400m run, beer, 400m run, beer, 400m run, beer, 400m run – Finish. There are also finer points of course. To have “finished” a beer, you must turn it over above your head (to demonstrate its empty or you get a dousing of beer.) If you vomit (inevitable at these events, apparently) you must run an extra 400m penalty lap. The beer is to be of the 5% (or more) variety, and must be at 355 mL or 12oz (a normal can or bottle.)
We showed up at the track where this was rumoured to be going down. It was just before 7PM, pitch black, and damn cold. The kind of cold that I would not normally choose to consume beer in (at least outside.) We found a fair sized group huddling in a doorway of the highschool trying to stay out of the wind. I loved how up until the moment we joined this group, I wasn’t sure this was really even happening. I got here on word of mouth, and following people that claimed to know what was going down. Nevertheless, here I was shivering in the cold, pulling out my specified 4 cans of beer and waiting to join all these freezing cold folks in trying to be fastest beer miler on the night. After a bit of standing around, placing beer, donning headlamps, shedding parkas, it was time to drink… and run. Without fanfare, we were off – well actually we had to drink our first beers, then we were off. I was getting some video footage, so tried to observe all that was happening around me. There seemed to be an even split of serious competitors and survivors. The competitors were off and running quickly, while the survivors focused on not doing what results in the penalty lap.
I finished my first beer and set out on a lap around the track. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I would say I was somewhere between competitive and survival. I was expecting some gastro distress from quickly consuming a volume of very carbonated liquid, and then bouncing around the track for a while. I took it easy until the last lap when I realized this wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. It was too late to make up much time at that point, but I was surprised at how terrible I DIDN’T feel.
Then it was over. There were awards and the announcement of the after party, and everyone scattered back into the cold streets. An odd experience to be sure. Made more so, given that the weather wasn’t conducive to any pre or post loitering around, and it felt like this crew of beer-fueled runners showed up to this dark track, did their thing, and then split. I’ll have to come back next summer when its warm and go for a new PR… because that’s what (beer) runners do.