Beer and running seem to be a match made in heaven. From infiltrating local running clubs, races, the Beer Mile, and as a reward for any hard workout or race, beer has added yet another social element to the running scene.
Chemically speaking, brewing beer occurs from the fermentation of starch by yeast. The sugars in the grain are metabolized which creates the alcohol and CO2. Although beer is 90% water, and typically four to six percent alcohol, it is still considered a diuretic. Beer does contain sugary carbs, nutrients from the hops, starch, and some electrolytes, but the alcohol content puts a damper on these benefits. So if you plan on having some post-run brews, grab a glass of water and a snack to have before the beer.
Even with the alcohol content, beer has health benefits when consumed in moderation. Moderate consumption means one 12-ounce beer per day for women, and two for men (but don’t think that the days you don’t have a beer can be added to another day and still be considered “moderate consumption”). In moderation, beer has been seen to lower risks of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages; contains multiple B vitamins and chromium; helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol; contains hops that are rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols; and can decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
While it seems quite normal to have a beer after a run, having beer during the run may seem a little extreme, but that’s exactly what the Beer Mile is. We caught up with some of Canada’s top beer milers to share their running & beer stories:
I was one of the rare ones who didn’t really drink beer. Had my first one 2nd year university, 1992, and didn’t care for it. Felt way too bloated, too, and I couldn’t understand how my roommates could drink more than one. And so their surprise when I ran my 5:09 beer mile world record in 2007.
My first beer mile was in 2005. It was a fundraiser for melanoma, in honour of a local triathlete who had passed away. We had a huge crowd. 75 participants and over 100 spectators. The Times Colonist newspaper was on hand. I only did it to support the cause. At the time the world record was 5:42 and I figured if things went really smoothly I could be 6:20-30. Certainly wasn’t thinking anything faster than that, and so I chose Guinness, which isn’t beer mile legal (only 4.4%, and it needs to be a 5% beer). It was late December, just before Christmas, and we ran it in the rain and dark. I had no idea what my splits were. I just ran as hard as I could. Someone told me after the race I’d run 5:12, which seemed impossible to me, but it was corroborated by the official timers. The mark didn’t count as a record since I drank Guinness, but I knew then I would return the next year with a legal beer, which I did, and ran 5:20 drinking Keepers Stout from a can. The year after that I ran 5:09 with Granville Island Winter ale, which stood as the world record for 6 years.
I didn’t run a single beer mile after that until Flotrack hosted the World Championships in the fall of 2014. By then I was a master, with suspect speed and no chugging practice. I thought I would get dusted by these University kids. Figured I would come last. Nick Symmonds was in the race, Lewis Kent, Corey Gallagher. These boys were big and fast and young. They were brash and controversial. In the media guide all of our fastest chug times were listed and mine was the slowest at 8 seconds. Our mile bests were listed, too, and I was nearly the slowest there, with my personal best from 16 years prior. But for whatever reason my body takes to the beer mile. I ran 5:20 and finished 3rd. A year later I took another serious crack at it on the track, just because my curiosity was intense, and ran 5:01 which still stands as my beer mile best.
This nascent beer mile frenzy… I feel like it’s a bit of a supernova. After that first World Championships and before the first World Classic the beer mile burned pretty brightly, and so when I went to the pub with my mates I would order a beer in whatever bottles they had, Sleeman or Heineken or (preferably) anything from Phillips, and I’d get my friends to time me. They’d pull out their iPhones and set them on the table, and as soon as the waitress put the beer down and turned away, I’d go. The truth is I don’t love beer. I can enjoy it, sure, but I’d rather train than sip at it. I’d rather see if I can get under 4 seconds than nurse one. So the waitress would leave and my boys would be ready, and I’d train there in the pub, getting down to 3.37 seconds once, confirmed by the backup timer. We’d only be there for an hour or 90 mins and I’d drink two beers in that time, and they’d be in my hand for less than 10 seconds. It helped having the stage. I wanted pressure on me. I wanted to have the possibility of being ridiculed if I screwed up and spat it out my nose, and so the pub was ideal. I was preparing for the big races. Never had the urge to run after, though. Not on those nights at the pub.
I don’t really fall on either side of the pro/con argument. Clearly I’m not contra beer and, more generally, drinking, but I don’t drink much. I like the environment mostly for the socials. I know alcohol can interfere with recovery and sleep, but I also know keeping the governor on too tight can have the same detrimental effect.
I’ve always thought of myself being a beer connoisseur. I love trying new beers everywhere I go. One of my favourite winter celebrations is our Winter Beer Mile (we also hold a summer one) here in Manitoba. My first one was in 2006, during my first year of university. Every year after CIS championships the team would host an underground beer mile. This time conveniently fell around by birthday, which is on St. Patty’s Day, so it was a fun way to celebrate with everyone.
The only draw back being, its March in Winnipeg, which means there was also a fair amount of snow to shovel. We would gather the team on a Friday night, hang out and shovel the track for hours. We would then wake up the next morning a bit rough around the edges, and dreading what we were about to do. My first beer mile were terrible, I ran around 14 minutes and was definitely penalized for not holding down my contents.
I’m happy to say things have greatly improved since then, and I look forward to our Winter Beer Mile every year. Since my first year of university, our Beer Miles have grown beyond just the team. We get all types of people coming out (family members, friends of friends etc) as it’s a great fun and active way to bring people together over beers.
I always look forward to enjoying a casual beer once Beer Mile training is done. Nothing beats a nice cold beer after a hard workout or long run. However, during training I don’t allow myself any casual sipping beers, I practice chugging with everything.