Four Beers, Four Laps: How Tough Is the Beer Mile, Really?

Lance Armstrong lined up for a beer mile trial, but dropped out after one beer and one lap. Credit: Courtesy Flotrack

It wasn't Lance Armstrong’s intent to help create publicity for the Beer Mile World Championships, December 3 in Austin, Texas, but that's exactly what he's doneAt a beer mile trial on November 8, organized and filmed (video has been removed) by the promoters of the upcoming championship race, Armstrong lined up alongside a field of local favorites. Expectations were high. Could the two-time New York City Marathon finisher and former Michelob Ultra-sponsored athlete run four laps on the track chugging a 12-ounce can every 400 meters better than the beer mile’s “super masters” (40-plus) world record of 5:51?

Alas, no. Armstrong completed just one beer and lap. His excuse? “That was not what I expected.” The undeniable fail spread faster than a spilt Budweiser across the web with writers from Runner’s World and  Sports Illustrated reveling in Armstrong’s defeat. “Surprisingly, one of the world's greatest athletes can't drink and run for shit,” chimed a contributor at Deadspin.com.

But rather than jump on the Armstrong dog pile, we wanted to focus on an important question the video prompted: Just how hard is running a beer mile, really?

To find out, we queried two of the world’s top beer milers, as well as one of Armstrong’s beer mile competitors on that inglorious day (Armstrong declined to comment). Here’s their take:

Nick Symmonds 
800-meter Olympian and World Championships silver medalist.
Beer Mile PR: 5:19.

"It’s unlike any pain I’ve ever felt as a pro athlete. You’re constantly fighting nausea and the gag reflex. Your whole stomach is just one giant cramp. Your trying to breathe, chug, burp, and run all at the same time. It’s super hard, but I’ve never puked."

Chris Kimbrough
Multi-time masters national champion. Women’s beer mile world record holder.
Beer Mile PR: 6:28

"The carbonation builds up and feels like a shelf sitting in your diaphragm. You want to keep drinking, but it’s just not going down. The key is burping. I was able to burp while running. And I was still burping well after I finished. My biggest concern was my bladder. That’s a lot of liquid."

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Patrick Hitchens
Elite beer mile runner sponsored by Fitrankings.com.
Beer Mile PR: 6:08

"I went from totally sober to shitfaced in two seconds. It was like zero to one hundred. I puked a few minutes after finishing. I had a slice of margherita pizza about two hours before the race, and this is the first beer mile I didn’t feel like puking while running. I think that’s the ticket, having something bready in your belly to help absorb the alcohol. 

"I’d had a few beers the night before the race, and I probably wouldn’t have come out that day if Lance wasn’t there. I’m sure he doesn’t remember this, but he beat me by seven seconds in a 5K about two years ago. Ever since, it’s been my goal to beat him a running race. I wish he would have finished. He can still redeem himself. I’ll help him train."