The next landmark in the evolution of the human species was achieved at halftime of a second division professional soccer game. A marching band played before it happened. Families who had to guide their toddlers to the restroom missed it. A man with a microphone in an orange two-piece suit and blonde afro wig announced it. Nobody would win a prize after it.
On October 28, a Canadian man named Corey Bellemore both consumed 48-ounces of beer and ran one mile in four minutes and 33.6 seconds. He did this as part of a mid-game stunt at Kezar Stadium, former home of the San Francisco 49ers, current home of the San Francisco Deltas. He destroyed the five other competitors and broke his own previous world record in the Beer Mile by nearly a second.
Hear me out: This may be one of the most impressive displays of human athleticism in history.
— BeerMileWorldClassic (@ClassicBeerMile) October 29, 2017
Before you dismiss this (yes, completely absurd) sizzling hot take, know that I believe the beer mile should not be taken seriously. The whole concept belies the purpose of athleticism—to test the limits of how efficiently the human body can move. If you want to propel yourself forward as fast as possible, you should not dump beer down your gullet.
Which is why the Beer Mile is a fringe competition, designed for end-of-season college cross-country shenanigans. Competitors chug a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer with at least a five percent ABV, then run a quarter mile, and repeat three more times. It is certainly not healthy. It probably does not deserve any more attention than as halftime entertainment at a lower-tier soccer match.
And yet… and yet, the physical mechanics Bellemore displayed last Friday evening are, simply, astonishing. They require a specific combination of both genetic and trained attributes that perhaps less than a few dozen people on the planet have.
Consider his running speed, first. Bellemore is elite distance athlete. The 22-year-old recently graduated as a collegiate runner from the University of Windsor. In July, he competed at the Canadian Outdoor Track and Field Championships, finishing the 1500 in 3:46.65. His personal best is 3:42.
Roughly seventy years ago, people believed finishing a mile in less than four minutes was impossible, until of course, Roger Bannister busted the mythical mark in 1954. If you calculate only the time Bellemore spent running (Beer Mile rules dictate you cannot carry the bottle with you on the track. You have to finish it in a designated 10-meter “chug zone” between every lap), he finished the mile in 4:03. Bellemore expects one day soon, he will be able to shave that mark below four minutes. Which means that in just seven decades, the barrier has progressed from an impossibility to a man who can very nearly break it between slugs of booze.
Now, consider the beer-drinking. Bellemore imbibed in Flying Monkeys (a Canadian brewery, who yes, sponsors him). He was able to down each 12-ounce bottle in roughly seven seconds. Bellemore’s countryman and a former beer mile world record holder himself, Lewis Kent, has actually spent time experimenting how fast beer can escape a standard bottle. At the optimal angle (roughly 45 degrees), the liquid completely drains in between six to seven seconds—depending on the amount of foam.
This means that Bellemore cannot chug any faster than what he did Friday evening. The laws of physics won’t allow it. (It should be noted here that the standard Beer Mile rules forbid shotgunning or any modifications to a can or bottle that increase the normal pour-rate.)
Finally, consider the digestion. By the start of the fourth lap, Bellemore had three-quarters of a gallon of carbonated alcohol roiling around his stomach and intestines. He didn’t puke.
‘I don’t know what it is, I just have a really strong stomach—maybe it’s genetics,” Bellemore told me, five days after the race. “During most beer miles I get this weird tingly sensation after the third or fourth beer. I feel like I want to stop. It gets uncomfortable. But this one felt weirdly comfortable the whole time.”
After finishing his third beer, the announcer yelled into the microphone that Bellemore was on world record pace. He sped up, closing his final lap in 57 seconds. The crowd went bananas.
For good reason. What they had witnessed was the peak of human evolution. It was fluid dynamics melded with muscle mechanics. Biology flirting with physics. Beer mixed with running. It was beautiful.
Unlike most athletic world records, Bellemore did not receive any prize money. He won’t be knighted like Sir Bannister. He got a free trip to San Francisco and some viral fame out of it. After the race, he and his fellow competitors went to the Kezar Pub, the got-to spot for Deltas supporters after games.
“Are you that beer mile guy,” they kept asking him. He’d smile and say yes. He didn’t spend a dime on drinks that night. Honestly, that’s probably the perfect amount of recognition this unbelievable feat deserves.