FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships

Why You Love (Or Hate) The Beer Mile

Why You Love (Or Hate) The Beer Mile

Oct 8, 2015 by Lincoln Shryack
Why You Love (Or Hate) The Beer Mile

The infamous beer mile has seen an influx of record-breaking performances in recent years as the popularity of the cult phenomenon has been embraced by elites, hobby joggers, and frat bros alike, bringing with it national media attention that running by itself rarely, if ever, attracts. Much of the event’s relationship with pop culture has to do with the mass consumption of alcohol in a short time frame, as people either love or loath, but always have an opinion on, the reckless nature of slamming beers at a rate usually reserved only for Friday nights at a university quad. 
While this part is certainly a big draw, and a polarizing one at that, perhaps the most fascinating reality about the Chug, Run, Repeat culture is that the men and women who have had the most success in the short history of the race are everyday people with just above-average running ability. 
Consider the two men who have won the only two organized races in beer mile history. Canadians Corey Gallagher and Lewis Kent, the first a 28-year-old postman from Winnipeg, Manitoba and the latter a 22-year-old student from Mississauga, Ontario, are not stand out runners in the normal sense. Gallagher owns a modest 4:03 1500m PR, while Kent isn’t much faster, with a 3:58 best to his credit. Those times are certainly respectable, but are trumped by a large quantity of high school distance runners in the U.S. annually. This past spring alone, 234 high schools boys in the U.S. ran as fast or faster than 3:58 given the 4:15.49 1600m conversion time. Knowing that, you can understand how men in their 20s running these times is altogether ordinary. 

RELATED: Learn more about the 2015 FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships this December in Ausin, Texas
Turning the ordinary man into the extraordinary hero is a fascinating ideal, and it’s exactly the concept that the beer mile has captured and why it continues to grow. When Gallagher broke the tape first at the inaugural FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships last December, beating Kent and 800m World silver medalist Nick Symmonds, among others, he achieved a small nugget of notoriety that we recognize as an individual’s “15 Minutes of Fame”, a place in the spotlight that gives the everyman a taste of life as a celebrity. The same can be said of Kent, who set the 4:55.78 world record on August 7th and went on to win the first ever Beer Mile World Classic two weeks later, albeit without Gallagher there to challenge him. 

Watch Corey Gallagher win the 2014 FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships:

We watch these average joe’s conquer the beer mile world and wonder if such ability exists in ourselves in some other obscure realm like this. Americans love an underdog, and here it just so happens that the Davids are actually the Goliaths. Until an elite distance runner figures out the chugging, this will continue.

Outside of their names and faces being cast in the national spotlight, albeit briefly, due to the unique nature of the event, these men are rare in the sense that they have actually found an ability in themselves in which they are legitimately the best in the world, at least among the small amount of people who have competed in a beer mile. Our competitive culture is often eager to find who is the best among us even in seemingly worthless and quirky endeavors (think Guinness Book of World Records), as the drive to separate ourselves from the pack can make people do strange things. 

Beer mile World record holder Lewis Kent thinks he can lower the WR to 4:50: 

Admittedly, the beer mile is that, strange, and it’s not going to stop having its share of critics anytime soon. Running traditionalists hate it because they believe it makes a mockery of our sport, while others simply find issue with the alcohol part. Both arguments have their merits. 

But even among the beer mile’s biggest critics, there’s no denying that this event has struck a chord with the mainstream, with proof of Chug, Run, Repeat’s reach popping up everywhere from ESPN to the New York Times. As you know, our sport in the traditional sense still regularly struggles to grab the attention of these giants. 
Even in a culture that immortalizes sports heroes and enjoys a cold beer or two while doing so, Gallagher and Kent will never come close to the prominence of the elite athletes who compete in normal athletic circles. While the two Canadians aren’t set to cash-in on a big payday anytime soon or even quit their day jobs, they do find themselves in the unique position of being the very best in an event that marries two of our biggest pastimes, sports and beer, in a way that no other does. And that’s what makes these two ordinary dudes so extraordinary, and why we’re still watching.