Manchester welcomes the world’s best Beer Mile runners for global event
Four laps of an athletics track plus four beers make for a unique sporting event which recently took place in the city-region.
Manchester is well known for its sporting prowess and the region recently welcomed a set of elite competitors for an event combining the abilities to cover ground and chug beer.
The 2021 Beer Mile World Classic brought the elite of competitors in the discipline which combines track athletics with drinking against the clock to the city-region.
And it proved to be a good move as the event at the Leigh Sports Village (LSV) saw a world record broken.
Manchester World spoke to those involved in the friendly community of Beer Mile running to find out more.
What is the event that was staged in Greater Manchester?
The Beer Mile World Classic is described by Beer Mile, the central website for the sport, as the premier event bringing drinking and running together.
The race starts with everyone having to drink a bottle of beer.
They then complete a lap of the track and when they return to the start they have to consume another bottle.
This process then continues until the entire mile-long distance has been completed.
The 2021 Beer Mile World Classic was the seventh edition of the event.
Corey Bellemore of Canada won the men’s race and in a world record time to boot, crossing the finishing line in 4:28.1.
This is pretty impressive going when Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s gold-medal winning time for the 1500m in the Tokyo Olympics was 3:28.32, and that was obviously without having four bottles of beer on board during the competition.
America’s Allison Grace Morgan took home the women’s title in a time of 6:32.2.
The organisers brought the event to Greater Manchester as they were permitted to host the event at the LSV, with many tracks completely banning all Beer Mile type competitions, and because there is an enthusiastic community which is part of the sport in the area.
What other rules are there in Beer Mile running?
There are a few other rules anyone planning to have a go at the sport will need to know.
The beer drunk between laps of the track must be a minimum of 5% ABV in strength.
Anyone who vomits during the race will have to run an extra penalty lap.
And the bottles of beer are checked to make sure that they have been adequately drained.
Where does Beer Mile running come from?
There is no one person who can be identified as the inventor of the Beer Mile, but there is a reasonable history of events combining drinking and running.
In England there are races called Chunder Miles, where pints are consumed, whereas in North America the Beer Mile using bottles is more usual.
Many athletics clubs at colleges and universities on both sides of the pond tend to put on beer races as a fairly light-hearted end-of-season event.
In the early 1990s a Canadian group at Queens College in Kingston, Ontario, standardised the rules.
In a nod to this history the Beer Mile World Classic trophies are named the Kingston Cup and Queens Cup.
The World Classic itself was invented by a group of enthusiasts including Nick MacFalls, John Markell from the original Kingston group and James Nielsen who was the first person to break five minutes for the discipline.
Why do people compete?
Athletes speak glowingly of the tight-knit community within the beer running world.
Chris Robertson, who came second at Leigh and is from Chicago, said: “I got into it kind of by chance. I was in a running club at uni and they had a beer mile, and over the next few years I got a bit better each time.
“Eventually I realised there was a World Championships and I got myself involved.
“That’s pretty common in the US, people give it a try in uni and then realise it’s an actual sport.
“It’s a pretty unique challenge within track and field. Not everyone understands what a fast time in running looks like, but when you say you can drink four beers and run a mile in five minutes that’s something they can comprehend.
“It’s a fun event and there’s a really good community. It’s fun to hang out with everyone who comes to the race and I always look forward to seeing them every year. There’s always good friendly camaraderie around the event.”
John Tayleur, who lives in Leeds, came fourth in the men’s race and also got into beer mile running at university, in his case through a cross-country club.
The 26-year-old maths teacher said: “I did my first World Classic in London in 2017. I then went to Berlin in 2019 and did the virtual one last year.
“It’s a different challenge to normal running races.
“I’m a decent runner and a decent drinker so when you combine them I’m somehow one of the best in the world.
“I’ve met people from America, Canada, Norway and Sweden who I would never have met if it wasn’t for the Beer Mile.
“The funny thing about it is that when you’re doing the drinking you want that to be over and would rather be running, and when you’re running you want to get to the drinking to have a break.”
Will Manchester be hosting the event again?
There is definitely enthusiasm among the beer running community for the World Classic to return to Greater Manchester.
Chris said: “It was incredible having the event in Manchester. The track in Leigh was great and quite a lot of people came out to spectate.
“We also got to go out in the city after the race and go to a few different bars.
“It was a great location to have it.”
How seriously do the runners take it?
While it might be easy to potentially mock the whole idea of the beer mile, the organisers of the World Classic are determined that the runners should be properly acknowledged for their athletic abilities.
Nick said: “It is easy to ridicule our athletes as drunks, but by and large, they are a very successful group of people that include doctors, rocket scientists, engineers, and bankers or entrepreneurs.”
John said: “When you tell people you do the Beer Mile they normally find it a bit hilarious and funny that there’s a World Championships, because it’s quite an obscure thing.
“But then I tell them what I have to do and they say they couldn’t do either the running or the drinking in that time. They are normally quite impressed.”