(Editor's note: this may be the first in a series of rants coming in the next few weeks. I have a few things that I feel like I need to get off my chest that might make it out in blog form. Sorry in advance.)
I ran my first beer mile of 2015 a few weeks ago at what we're I guess calling the second annual Hudson Valley Beer Mile. I mentioned the inaugural race very briefly last year; I ran the penalty lap (as I almost always do) and finished last in a four-person field in an embarrassing 16:31. Clearly I am a much better pizza racer than beer miler. But something clicked for me this year. I don't know if it's the low carb diet, the fact that I went in on a semi-full stomach, or the fact that I hadn't had a beer for several weeks prior, but I felt much, much better than I normally do during these shenanigans. We had a solid field of eleven runners. Dr. Mike went out hard defending his title from the previous year, but BM virgin Oestrike was right on his heels; the two would reprise the back-and-forth battle they had at the pizza race six months earlier. I felt like I drank the first one pretty quickly for me but was in tenth place starting the first quarter. I moved up throughout, though, spending most of the race in the mid-pack before eventually working my way up to a chunder-free third place finish in a huge PR of 8:16. No, I'm not a good beer miler, but at least I'm no longer embarrassingly bad.
|Finishing off a PR performance|
Photo: Michele Halstead
Second Annual Hudson Valley Beer Mile
November 1, 2015
* = penalty lap
1. Brian Oestrike 7:17
2. Mike Halstead 7:37
3. Jason Friedman 8:16
4. Bill Shashaty 8:26
5. Ed Stoner 8:40
6. Vinny Sickles 10:18
7. NAME REDACTED 10:46*
8. Myron Baker 11:15
9. Jeff Burns 13:00*
10. Rob Piegari 13:35
11. Bill Pape 13:35
The reason I bring this up, though, is because in case you haven't noticed, the beer mile has suddenly become very trendy. It seems like it's not just college track runners and assorted idiots doing it anymore. James Nielsen's May 2014 world record of 4:57--the first sub-5:00 beer mile in history--was a watershed moment for the sport, which suddenly gained mainstream notice for the first time. Much like Bannister's famed 1954 run at Iffley Road (almost 60 years to the day before Nielsen's barrier-breaker), once the world saw what was possible, a bevy of athletes charged through what was thought to be an impenetrable barrier. By the end of 2014 we had a sanctioned world championship, complete with sponsors and on-line streaming video coverage.
The record has been lowered four times in the last 18 months, most recently two weeks ago by Canadian Lewis Kent, which I'm going to use as a jumping-off point for the discussion I want to have about legitimacy and perception.
OK, first things first: I have no doubt Lewis Kent ran a 4:51 beer mile. I'm not accusing anyone of cheating, fabrication, or anything like that. The record has been ratified and I have no problem with that whatsoever. That is not the point I'm trying to make in any way, shape, or form, so let's make that clear.
I was struck when watching the video, however, that neither Kent nor Phil Parrot-Migas, who ran an impressive 5:07, emptied their beers prior to starting their laps. Beer mile tradition holds that a competitor overturn their empty can or bottle over their head, to demonstrate that the vessel is indeed empty, before leaving the drinking zone. Now, that isn't an official "rule". Beermile.com, which bills itself as "the official beer mile resource" and is generally responsible for ratifying performances and codifying the rules, states: "It is strongly recommended, when attempting official records, to tip the empty beer can or bottle over your head at the end of a chug to verify an empty vessel." (italics mine) But it is certainly traditional, and I was surprised that in a well-publicized record attempt, neither of them would adhere to that tradition. (Plus, it makes for an appealing visual, and hearkens back to the sports' underground roots.) James Nielsen does it in his video:
So maybe it's not required, but it certainly helps, and again, while I have no doubt that the record was legitimate, it seemed unlikely to me that it would get ratified, and I said as much:
However, it did get ratified, and someone threw out an explanation on the URP Daily News: