Manitoba

Winnipeg beer mile runner hopes to guzzle way back to world record

Winnipeg runner Corey Gallagher hopes to once again break a world record next month at the Beer Mile World Championship — a race that running commentators say is becoming a legitimate sport.

Canada, famed for its athletic guzzling and running, has been called the Kenya of beer miling

Winnipeg runner Corey Gallagher is out to regain his title of Beer Mile World Champion 1:45

Throw back a beer, sprint around the track. Repeat four times. Sounds easy enough, right? Even a bit silly.

But what was once a casual year-end ritual for university runners is becoming more serious, and a Winnipeg runner is out to regain his place as the world record holder. 

"It's probably harder than any other race," said Winnipeg mail carrier Corey Gallagher, who held the world record time of four minutes 54.38 seconds until earlier this week. "Not only are you trying to run as fast as you can, but now, you're trying to consume something. It's just an awkward mix."
Corey Gallagher celebrates after winning the 2014 Beer Mile World Championship.

Lewis Kent broke that record this week by more than three seconds with a time of 4:51:09, which prompted the Brooks shoe and apparel company to approach Kent for a sponsorship deal. 

"Now that legitimate events are happening, sponsorships are occurring," said Kent. "I think it's getting a lot more legitimate; as it gets legitimate it's time to take it seriously."

Canada 'the Kenya of beer miling'

The beer mile is starting to get recognition within the running establishment.

"In the last couple of years it's become huge," said Michael Doyle, editor in chief of Canadian Running. "Canada is kind of weirdly dominant at it. We've jokingly said that we're the Kenya of beer miling."

Last year, Gallagher won the inaugural FloTrack Beer Mile Championship in Austin, Texas — a victory he hopes to repeat in December.
Lewis Kent raced to a beer mile world record in London, Ont., on Nov. 17. (Canadian Press)

His drink of choice? Bud Light Platinum. He can chug one in less than five seconds — a feat that apparently sets him apart.

"I don't know if there is any secret," said Gallagher. "It's just being ready to endure what's about to come and that's a lot of pain."

Kent runs on Amsterdam Blonde, a five per cent Toronto craft beer he said he has had multiple personal bests with.

It's not like they just stepped out of the pub to do this. Both men have decent running resumés. 

Gallagher used to run track for the University of Manitoba. Kent currently runs for the University of Western Ontario.

"You've got these kind of journeymen runners, guys like Gallagher who's, you know, a pretty good runner, but by no means a world-class runner," said Doyle. "But he's an incredible beer chugger. He can kind of stitch it all together, and he's got an iron stomach. He's able to be really competitive at this." 

Olympian, Lance Armstrong attempt beer mile

Doyle said the origins of the beer mile is "enshrouded in a little bit of folklore and mystery," but the consensus is it began in Ontario in the late 1980s.  

FloTrack, an online track and field hub, said it organized the world championship last year to make it a more legitimate event.
Corey Gallagher hopes to break a beer mile world record in Austin, Texas, in December at the world championship. (CBC)

"Is it going to ever be an Olympic sport? Probably not," laughed Max Crutchfield with FloTrack, who added, "We're doing everything to make these athletes stars. We want to create stars and Super Bowls."

Serious athletes do compete.

Last year, 2012 American Olympian Nick Symmonds placed seventh at the world championship. A video posted on FloTrack shows Lance Armstrong dropping out after his first lap in a race in Texas.

The rules are pretty simple: no wide-mouth cans or bottles allowed. The beer must be at least five per cent alcohol. No ciders. And yes, there are penalty laps if a runner vomits.

Of course, there have been twists on the race.

Beermile.com lists events involving vodka shots, soda or milk instead of beer — even a race where the runner must solve multiple Rubik's Cubes.

'I kind of puked everywhere'

Sound easy? Not so fast, said Doyle. 

"The beer mile is probably among the hardest events in running," he said, laughing. "If you haven't tried one before and you're a decent runner, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into."

Gallagher said he has been running beer miles for about a decade now. 

"I think my first one I ran like 14 minutes. I kind of puked everywhere. It wasn't a good feeling, I wasn't having fun with it," he said. But he kept improving his technique.

Kent agreed, saying training and preparation are key. He compares a five-minute beer mile to a four-minute mile: "They are equal feats in my opinion."

Gallagher said he knows this year's world championship will be a larger affair than the first one.

But the basic appeal of the beer mile, he said, remains simple and relatable.

"Everybody knows how far a mile is. Everybody knows what it's like to drink a beer," said Gallagher. 

Kent, meanwhile, said he's determined to add the world championship to his world record.

"I'll be in peak running form, peak drinking shape," he said.

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