First-Ever Beer Mile World Classic Set for San Francisco

Budweiser is the beer of choice for many beer milers.
Budweiser is the beer of choice for many beer milers. rob_rob2001
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Ever watched someone successfully finish a beer mile and thought to yourself, “I could do that?”

If so, you’ll have the chance in about a month, as the Beer Mile World Classic, featuring some of the most well-respected beer milers in the world as well as open registration for the mere mortals of the sport, is scheduled for August 22 in San Francisco.

Set to take place at Treasure Island, the event is shaping up to be a mix of competition and camaraderie around the beer mile. The event, which involves running a mile on a track and chugging a beer in between each lap, exploded from a mostly underground phenomenon to worldwide popularity last year after Bay Area resident James Nielsen recorded a sub-five-minute finish, running a 4:57 at an undisclosed Marin County track in April 2014.

A media firestorm followed—which wasn’t without controversy, as rival beer milers like Corey Gallagher have openly contested Nielsen's record—and in December 2014, Flotrack hosted the first-ever, non-underground competition in Austin. Gallagher won handily, but his time of 5:00 failed to break Nielsen's time.

Following his achievement, Nielsen started thinking about organizing an event in the Bay Area last fall. He partnered with Nick MacFalls, a Bay Area entrepreneur and race director, and John Markell, regarded as one of the co-authors of the official rules of the beer mile, to produce the event, which will be covered by ESPN.

“We’re all about great food, great beer, at a great location,” MacFalls says. “I’ve been telling people, ‘This may be the most beautiful place you ever puke.’ We want to give people a chance to hang out, drink, and watch beer miles, and do one if they want to.”

Indeed, you just may be inspired to take to the track after watching the likes of Nielsen duke (and hopefully not puke) it out with other big names in the beer mile, including Canadian Jim Finlayson and Australian Josh Harris. The women’s side is just as impressive. Slated to attend are Americans Andrea Fisher and Chris Kimbrough, as well as Canadian Seanna Robinson, who hold three of the top five spots in the standings.

Views like this might help take the pain away from running the beer mile.
Views like this might help take the pain away from running the beer mile. Franco Folini

Elite beer milers will compete for the titles of Kingston Cup and Queen’s Cup, respectively, as a nod to the names of the colleges where the event first got its start. One name to keep an eye on just may be up-and-coming Canadian Lewis Kent, who’s “just taking chunks and chunks of time off,” MacFalls says. “He seems to be the one who’s most committed to running this race. I’m telling you, if I were to say who’s the next guy whose going to run under five, it would be him. … Watch out for him.”

One competitor beer mile enthusiasts might miss at the World Classic is James “Jimbo” Hansen, whose 4:56.25 time earlier this year was initially believed to set the new world record. (Nielsen, however, is still regarded as the world record holder on Hansen is apparently training for the Olympics, according to MacFalls, and won't attend the San Francisco event.

The cost to participate in the beer mile is $48—which includes the four beers you’ll have to down—but it’s free to attend World Classic just to watch. Just don’t forget your ID, in case you’re inspired to give this zany event a go.

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