How to Run a 4:30 Mile (and Crush Four Beers Along the Way)
Corey Bellemore and Elizabeth Laseter win the Beer Mile World Classic titles in Chicago. Things got spewy.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
How fast can you run a mile while chugging four beers? How about doing it while running with just one shoe?
Canadian beer-mile phenom Corey Bellemore ran an impressive 4:30.80 mile under those conditions on Saturday to win the Beer Mile World Classic in Chicago, coming up just short of his 2021 world record of 4:28.10. American Elizabeth Laseter won the women’s championship race in 6:03.75 to claim her first world title, but Shelby Houlihan, a 2016 U.S. Olympian who is under suspension for a doping violation, stole the show by breaking the women’s beer mile world record in an earlier heat with a stunning 5:43.81 effort.
What Exactly Is a Beer Mile?
Basically, it’s a mile race on a track in which each runner chugs a 12-ounce beer, runs one 400-meter lap, and repeats that three more times, a beer for each lap, as fast as possible—all without having it come back up, which is politely referred to as a “reversal of fortune.” The clock stops for each runner after the fourth lap is completed, unless they spew, when an additional fifth 400-meter penalty lap is typically required.
The Beer Mile World Classic—the de facto world championship of this quirky discipline—returned to the United States on July 1, after an eight-year hiatus of being held in international locales, with the deepest fields ever assembled. The event was hosted by Hope Academy, a private college-preparatory high school with a high-performance track and a view of the Chicago skyline.
In the championship races that were broadcast via livestream, more than 30 elite beer-chugging runners duked it out for world titles, a variety of records, and, of course, the glory of international bragging rights.
Although Bellemore was disappointed about not being able to take a legitimate shot at the world record, his effort was impressive, nonetheless. He went out hard with a blistering early pace, coming through the initial 400-meter in 60 seconds after chugging his first beer. He remained on record pace with a two-beer, 800-meter split of 2:06.
But one of his Adidas spiked racing shoes slipped off in the first 20 meters of the race when he collided with another runner, so he ran almost the entire race wearing just a sock on his left foot. His victory was never in question, nor was his impressive pace of chugging beers, but he slowed slightly on the final two laps and finished two seconds short of his record.
Bellemore, 28, has been the world’s most dominant beer mile runner for several years, having won five world titles since 2016. He owns a 3:57:42 personal best in an open mile and ran a 4:24 at the 2018 Beer Mile World Classic in Vancouver, British Columbia. That would have shattered the world record at the time, but he was disqualified for having slightly too much foam left.
How fast did Bellemore run? He actually ran about a 4:02 mile if you consider that he had chugged each beer in about four seconds then averaged 60.50 400-meter splits.
“I wish it went a bit better, but that’s all right. It is still great showing, and great to be among everyone here,” said Bellemore after winning his third straight world championship title. “I don’t like to reflect too much on what could have been, but I think the potential for the beer mile could go to 4:20. When that’ll happen, hopefully soon. I think the top end would be right under 4:20 or right at 4:20.”
American Chris Robertson, the 2017 and 2020 World Beer Mile Classic winner, was second in 4:54:15, followed by Australian Nick Finch (4:59:15), Sweden’s Jonas Andersson (5:00:82) and American Garrett Cullen (5:03:50). Team USA won the men’s team title, followed by Great Britain and Canada. (Watch the men’s race on YouTube.)
Laseter Wins Women’s Championship
This year’s stacked women’s field included hometown favorite Melanie Pozdol of Chicago, the defending champion of the event after being declared the winner (6:41:00) at the 2022 championships in Leuven, Belgium after two runners were disqualified ahead of her. Also running in the women’s championship were Bend, Oregon’s Allison Grace Morgan, a three-time Beer Mile World Classic winner and world-record holder (6:16.50), and Elizabether Laseter, of Austin, Texas, who was first across the line in the 2022 championship race but was disqualified on a chug zone technicality.
Laura Riches of England set the pace on the first beer and a fast initial lap, but Laseter took command of the race on the second beer and never looked back. She ran away from the field, setting a huge personal best while surpassing Morgan’s official world record going into the event. Unlike many runners who try to pound the beers without stopping, Laseter uses a stop-and-start chugging method. Her splits broke down to roughly 72 seconds of beer chugging time (or an average of 18 seconds per beer) and running a 4:51 mile.
Grace Morgan, 40, finished as the runner-up in a new masters (40+) world record of 6:19:07, while Pozdol rounded out the podium in third (6:34.58) and American Kassandra Marin took fourth (6:39.27), making it a clean sweep for Team USA of the top four spots and securing another team world title. (Watch the women’s race on YouTube.)
Laseter, who competed collegiately for Johns Hopkins University, runs for the Bat City Track Club running club in Austin. She owns a 5:11 personal best in an open mile and has run a 2:48:58 marathon. But the 34-year-old food writer and photographer is also an exceptional beer chugger, a critical skill when it comes to running a beer mile for the podium.
“It always hurts, but it extra hurt this time,” Laseter said. “I had a blast. I love this event. I love my teammates. I love the community. I’m so thankful for this event and everyone who puts it on every year. I know a lot of work goes into it, and it gets better and better every year. “
Houlihan Sets New Women’s World Record
In the “Legends and Elites” division—speedy runners who weren’t considered fast enough to run in the championships flight—Team USA’s Bud Lightning (yes, that’s the name he entered at registration) dominated the race, clocking a 5:00:23 beer mile, a 17-second personal best that would have placed him fourth overall in the men’s championship heat. Former world-record holder Jim Finlayson (Canada) battled it out with Todd Rose (USA) for the 50+ beer mile world record. Finlayson came out on top, clocking a 5:44.10, with Rose finishing in 5:54.44. They are now the top two 50+ beer milers of all time.
But it was Houlihan, a 30-year-old suspended former Nike professional, who stole the show. She became the first woman in history to break the six-minute barrier, closing with a 63-second last lap to finish in 5:43.81. That’s roughly 1:18 of total drinking beer time and running a mile in roughly 4:25.
Houlihan, a 2016 U.S. Olympic in the 5,000-meter run who owns a 4:23.68 personal best in an open mile, is currently about two and a half years into a four-year suspension from track and field for a failed drug test in December 2020. Because of that, organizers said she was not eligible for the women’s championship race, although the World Beer Mile Classic is still working to develop a formal policy for athletes competing under suspension.
However, race organizers said the official beer mile rules have never required athletes to test in order to have their results ratified. For more than 25 years, beermile.com has relied on video evidence alone to prove legitimacy of a beer mile result and have it marked as “official” in the database. Thus, organizers said Houlihan’s time was world record eligible as she followed all rules outlined. Houlihan did not violate any rules regarding her ban and got pre-approvals ahead of the event by the required governing bodies.
“Honestly, it was really fun,” Houlihan said after her first competitive beer mile. “I think running past all the puke spots [from previous heats], though, was a little nerve-wracking. I was trying not to look at ’em. I had a great time and I just felt really good and everything kind of was clicking.”
Celebrity Non-Alcoholic Beer Mile
The Celebrity Non-Alcoholic (N.A.) Beer Mile heat featured a field of notable personalities all trying their hand at a beer mile for the first time. They drank Athletic Lite, Athletic Brewing’s 25-calorie non-alcoholic light brew that contains less than 0.5 percent ABV.
Elite masters marathoner and podcast host Ken Rideout led wire-to-wire, cruising a 6:50.12, less than a week after winning the Gobi March in Mongolia, a 155-mile stage race across the Gobi Desert. U.S. Rugby National Team member Carlin Isles took runner-up in 8:06.20.
There was a close battle for third on the final lap between TV personality Nev Schulman, sports analyst Cynthia Frelund, and comedian/actor Francis Ellis. In a sprint finish down the home stretch, Ellis barely edged out Schulman to finish third in 9:28.43. Schulman finished in 9:29.06, Frelund in 9:36.56, and Darren Rovell, sports business reporter for The Action Network, closed out the race with a time of 11:37.44.