I’m sure that many of us will have heard of this. Several may have already taken part in one. I had the former covered; a random facebook post gave me the opportunity to address the latter.
For those who may not be familiar with this event, it’s a mile. With beer… or, in this case, that excuse of a substitute commonly known as ‘lager’ (somewhat hypocritically, I’m equally at home with either type of beverage). It is generally run on a standard athletics track, a drink having to be consumed at the start of each of the four laps that entail the stated mile.
This event was organised by Gloucester Sports. Apparently this is the third year in which it has been run, so there are two missed opportunities for me already. All you need to bring is a £3 donation (monies were being raised for Gloucester AC Para-Athletics), your own drinks and, I guess, an open-eyed willingness to participate in something that was quite likely to make you physically sick.
I’d had some second-hand experience of a beer mile via an American work colleague (who had finished runner-up in a local event at his end) so was aware of a couple of differences when I was sent a (simple) set of rules. We are required to drink (from a glass) a pint at the start of each lap (the US use 12oz, or 330ml, cans – lightweights) but we do not receive any penalty for in-race vomiting (in the US a penalty lap, at the end, is the sanction for throwing up – well, chundering after a binge session is almost a national sport in itself, here).
‘Training’ consisted of downing a 500ml bottle of water and jumping on the spot, quite a far cry from the general running adage of drink little and often. Race preparation involved planning the bus journey (obvious reasons, really) and selecting the drink of choice. My local shop was a little limited in terms of 4-pack pint cans; the selected Kronenberg being the lesser evil to Stella Artois.
Those tall cans looked quite intimidating – hopefully they would look a lot less so when poured into glasses. Packing the drink, along with kit, I headed off to the nearest bus stop for the journey to Blackbridge, the Gloucester AC running track, venue for the event.
Two buses later I stepped off outside the venue, opposite a locked gate. Scratching my head, I wandered to the adjacent Crypt School, where I might gain access. No luck there. Wandering back to my original drop-off point I was consulting Google Maps in the hope of finding another way in when I saw Jane and Rob, both doing largely the same. Jumping into their car, we eventually found the entrance (the same place in which we registered for the Glos XC event; my memory sometimes needs a good shake-up!).
Signing in (paying the donation fee and putting one’s name to a disclaimer, most likely along the lines of you-choose-to-drink-and-run-so-don’t-look-anywhere-else-to-blame), I took four (plastic) pint glasses and transferred what was effectively my relay squad. As a side note, ladies were allowed to have half-pints and cider was now also allowed (one or two people had opted for fruit cider – eugh).
There was not a huge turnout – I suspect a couple of high-profile half marathons the next day, coupled with a very unpromising weather forecast for the evening had something to do with that – but some were making the most of it, a small group pf people ‘warming up’ with shots. The organisers gave us a briefing, pointing out bins for the discarded cans / glasses and, thoughtfully, a designated ‘chunder zone.’
Put simply: one would line up with the first drink, start drinking at the gun, get it completely down before setting off on the first lap. On completion of each lap one would collect and drink the next pint, completing that before setting off again. And so on.
We took our drinks, lined up and were counted down. I see myself as a fairly average drinker when it comes to quaffing pints and I guess that’s how it transpired, me being about midfield as we set off on the first of the four laps. The first fifty metres or so were all about how much I could burp; despite the drinks having had time to settle, there was still a bit of post-pint gas loitering about in my stomach.
The running itself was quite funny – I was trying to go forward as fast as I dared with as little vertical movement as possible. Not quite Bambi on Ice but possibly entertaining enough, as I made my way up the back straight and around the top bend, actually making up one or two places.
Having listened to some advice, pre-race, I eased up in the home straight (promptly losing places!) in order that I wasn’t too out of breath and could get the next drink down quickly. It wasn’t entirely successful, in that I had to take a halfway breather over the pint. I was managing a little better than some, in that I did get away ono the second lap ahead of those who had gone by me just ahead of the drinks station.
Burping my way through the first bend I essentially repeated the first lap: trying to limit the up-and-down movement that is not great for a sloshing stomach and easing up ahead of the third drink. Again, I made it halfway through the glass before I needed to catch my breath. This was probably the best method for me, as I was managing to get through the drink in two reasonably quick ‘downs.’
Into the third lap, I was still trying to burp out gas but becoming a little concerned that one of the burps might come out in 3D. The chunder zone so thoughtfully provided was adjacent to the drinks station (thinking about it, probably not ideal to be attempting to drink with the view of a fellow runner launching a projectile) so we had been requested to try and hold back until the end of each lap if possible.
The final pint was consumed in the same manner as the previous two and, setting off on my final lap I found that I was in second place. That was soon tempered by (i) the fact that the leader was already approaching the finish (yes, he had almost lapped everybody) and (ii) whilst I was busy ‘burping out’ I was passed by the leading lady. With no more pints to consume, however, I decided to give chase to her and we ran the back straight and top bend together.
Heading for the finish she put on a kick. I stepped up the pace too but didn’t chase her too hard at that point; keeping the beer down took priority over a runner-up finish. Besides, I may be out of practice when it comes to showing someone a good time but I’m pretty sure that splashing a lady, with optional chunks, does not fall into that category.
I was timed in at almost exactly 10 minutes and I was not feeling particularly queasy. Job done and, as a bonus, a top-three finish. Putting that into context, there were less than twenty of us, three did not complete the four laps (I did offer to split remaining drinks and complete an extra lap with one of these – anything for a free drink…) and the winner did look like more of a drinker than a runner (to be fair, he obviously could run!).
All that remained was the return home. This in itself became a bit of a challenge: four pints is more than enough to render me a bit tipsy, never mind getting them down over a ten-minute period. I did manage to complete the journey largely burp-free and against increasing protestations from my bladder.
Having survived it – it was fun! I think that I would actually look forward to doing another, and I may not have to wait an entire year for a repeat. Gloucester Sports is considering running a springtime event. Come and have a go if your liver thinks it’s hard enough.