Darlington Beer Mile, 21st June 2014
By Jonathan Gilroy
Now for a slightly less conventional race report, one that England Athletics definitely wouldn’t approve of. Friend, Darlington Quaker and minor local running celebrity Michael Joyeux is getting married in August, so he decided to organise a mini-stag do exclusively for his running friends. He wanted to put together an itinerary that combined the two things we love the most; running and drinking beer. After very little deliberation it was decided ‘Why not enjoy both at the same time!?’
Beer running, it turns out, is already a well-established art form. In Britain, the most well-known discipline is the ‘Chunder Mile’ where participants run four 400m laps, downing a pint before each. We opted for the tamer, yet potentially less messy ‘Beer mile’ based on the North American rules, which involves drinking four bottles or cans over the same distance. The current world record is held by American James Nielsen, who finished the mile in an astonishing 4:57.7 minutes; the world’s first sub-five minute beer mile. You can see his record attempt on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ-XFC5qzyM
Michael and I arrived at Darlington Eastbourne Running track at the ridiculously early time of 7am, aiming to finish before any staff arrived to thwart our attempted feat. With our beers laid out beside the track, we started our warm up, until we noticed the two security guards heading in our direction.
We decided that honesty was the best policy and confessed our plans. Whilst they seemed a little confused and dubious about the whole thing, they allowed us to proceed, as long as we kept a low profile and didn’t make a mess. It was at this point that two carloads of spectators from Quaker Running Club arrived to cheer us on, along with Mark Robinson, who had also decided to join us for the challenge. It was going to be hard to keep this low-key!
We lined up along the 1 mile marker, opened our beers and laid them out next to the 10 metre ‘exchange zone’ leading up to the start line – the area in which you are allowed to move in whilst drinking the beer. Michael and I chose bottles of Brew Dog’s ‘Dead Pony Club’ – a refreshing, hoppy summer pale ale, whilst Mark opted for Carlsberg.
With Quakers providing the timing and adjudication, we set off. The first beer went down a treat in three big gulps and I was first to get away, taking the first lap down at respectable pace. The second beer was knocked back in similar fashion, but as soon as I started the second lap I could feel it sloshing around and my stomach starting to bloat. The laps went by in a flash, but the beer drinking increasingly felt like an eternity. Every sip became agony and no matter how much it felt like I was drinking, the bottle didn’t seem to empty.
Mark had already lapped us by the time we got to our third beer and stormed into the home straight, finishing the mile in a very respectable 7 minute 43 seconds.
By the fourth beer I had completely hit the wall, at least as far as the beer was concerned. I was fighting back the urge to be sick and making some horrific noises. Michael was soon away on his final lap, whilst I just stood there shaking my head and grimacing. I eventually managed to finish the bottle, although it had taken me more time to drink the last couple of inches than it had to do all the previous laps put together. I finally set off on my fourth lap and waddled home in a less than convincing 15 minute something (I had stopped caring by that point).
As if the beer mile wasn’t punishment enough, Michael and Mark then decided to jog over to Darlington South Park for the parkrun. This seemed well beyond my capabilities at this point, so got a lift back to my Dad’s and quickly scarfed a bacon sarnie and mug of tea to help settle the stomach. Rested and with breakfast in me, my competitive instinct began to return and I decided that I didn’t want to lose face by allowing them to do parkrun without me. Still in my running kit, I headed back out and jogged down to the park just in time for the start.
Darlington parkrun is a flat, pleasant three-lap course, with a straight, fast start, followed by a loop around the duck pond and a short, sharp hill (Nicknamed ‘squirrel hill’ because of the squirrel carving) which leads back up to the home straight. Despite having four beers in me and feeling considerably worse for wear, I managed to get a course PB of 18:39! Michael won the run comfortably as per usual and even had the audacity to stop and pose for photos half way around – the cocky git! We spent the rest of the day in York, drinking in some excellent old pubs, although the latter part of the evening remains a blur.
In conclusion, do not EVER do the beer mile. It is not big, it is not clever and people will get lots of amusement at your expense. Save the beer until after the run. (Despite this I’d have great difficulty refusing if a rematch ever was on the cards!)
So there you have it. Beer and bacon sandwiches, the key to success. I think I’ll stick to porridge.