When you picture having a beer in the summer, most people imagine having their feet up and relaxing. This is not the case for Western student Lewis Kent, who has established himself as the best beer miler in the world.
Hold on a minute, what the heck is the beer mile? The beer mile is a track race that requires competitors to drink four beers and run four laps of a 400-metre track. Competitors start by drinking a beer and then running a lap. After each lap, another beer must be finished before the next lap is started. If someone vomits during the race, they have to do an extra 400-metre lap of the track at the end as a penalty.
Kent's international beer mile career began in December 2014 when he was invited to the inaugural FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships in Austin, Texas. At the event, which included an Olympian and other prominent track and field athletes, Kent finished in fifth place with a time of five minutes 32 seconds.
After coming up short in Austin, Kent set a goal to run the beer mile in under five minutes.
Kent achieved his goal in early August when he ran a world record time of four minutes 55 seconds on a track in Mississauga.
A large factor in Kent's eventual success was going beyond his regular exercise routine to train for the beer mile.
"Sometimes I do food challenges to stretch my stomach or eat massive meals and drink a couple of carbonated beverages so my body gets used to dealing with a lot of volume," he said.
Kent explained that the alcohol consumption does not play an important role in the outcome of the race.
"I do not feel the effects of the alcohol at all during the race," he said. "Probably about 15-20 minutes after the race it starts kicking in. The most difficult part is dealing with the amount of volume and carbonation in your stomach. If you were to do the same thing with pop or carbonated water it would be just as difficult."
Shortly after setting the world record, Kent won the Beer Mile World Classic on Aug. 22 in San Francisco against some of the best beer milers in the world.
The race director of the Beer Mile World Classic, Nick MacFalls, organized the event by funding the travel of most of the top beer milers from Canada, the United States and Australia. However, MacFalls faced several logistical difficulties along the way.
“The city government didn’t necessarily understand what we were trying to do. We lost our venue at a couple of points and it was hard for us to get insurance and permits. It made it complicated to actually stage the event. Running the event was relatively simple. It was just getting to the point where we could get clearance to do it,” he said.
These legal hurdles prevented the event from being held on a track. MacFalls had to settle for a race course on the roads of Treasure Island in San Francisco.
“We would love to be able to get the event on the track in the future. If it had been on the track, Lewis [Kent] would have run under his world record. Our course was a little windy and slow out here," he said.
The difficulties faced by MacFalls are reflective of the challenges most beer milers have to face. Almost all beer miles are not official races and are run at secret track locations in order to avoid attention from police officers. MacFalls also acknowledged the additional risks that come into play due to the nature of the beer mile.
“Most of the risk is throwing up. There is also the issue of driving home. Going into the beer mile you have to have a plan for your own safety," he said.
Despite the risks of running the beer mile, MacFalls believes it is a fun activity to do with friends and he encourages more people to take on the challenge of the beer mile.
The next step for Kent in the beer mile is the second annual FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships in December in Austin, Texas. At this event, he hopes to lower his world record and further solidify his reign atop the beer mile world.