Beer Mile Racing Tips From a World Champion

Is the beer mile on your short-distance bucket list? If you’re intrigued but not sure quite how to approach this combination of four fast laps around a track with chugging four beers as fast as you can, we’ve got some tips for you from one of the fastest female beer milers in the world.

Elizabeth Herndon is a world champion and former world record holder in the beer mile. She won the Flotrack World Championship Beer Mile in 2014 with a then-world-record time of 6:17.8.

Since then, she’s run one other beer mile – a cross-country one, no less, half asphalt and half grass – winning in 6:44. In 2016, she ran in the Olympic Trials marathon, then spent most of 2016 and 2017 pregnant or recovering from the birth of her daughter. Now she’s got her sights on Grandma’s Marathon, which she’ll be running this June.

We asked Beth to share her top beer mile training and racing tips to help get you started on the path to beer mile glory.

Salty Running: What is the most important aspect of beer mile training?

Elizabeth Herndon: No amount of beer drinking can compensate for a lack of running. In fact, the more beer you drink to “train”, the worse the outcome will probably be. The key to a good beer mile is being able to run fast comfortably. If you’re out of breath at the end of your lap, it will be really hard to chug a beer. Secondary to running is the ability to chug fast. I definitely advise trying this out ahead of time. Water or a carbonated drink can substitute, but you will want to practice at least once with the beer you intend to use for the race.

Some of the top male beer milers have discussed detailed training plans that incorporate beer or other carbonated beverages into their track workouts. Given that the beer mile has never been my focus, I did not do this, but maybe whoever does will be the first woman to break 6 minutes!

SR: Best pre-race dinner? Any other important rituals/preparations?

EH: The beer mile tends to be a nighttime event, so day of meal choice is very important. I go with something tame, maybe a large sandwich, a few hours before and then tide myself over with small snacks like pretzels closer to the race. You don’t want to crowd your stomach with food, and you don’t want to see that food again.

SR: Bottle or can? How do you drink it as fast and with as few, um, repercussions as possible?

EH: I have only ever raced with a can, but I’ve heard that the bottle is much faster. Breathing tends to be the limiting factor for me rather than the chugging part. The first two aren’t an issue and I can get them down pretty fast, but for the last two I try to take short breaths throughout.

SR: Talk us through laps 1, 2, 3, and 4 [a typical beer mile consists of four 400m laps]?

EH: Lap 1: chug that beer as fast as you can. Take off at a fast but moderate pace.

Lap 2: Repeat Lap 1.

Lap 3: This beer is a harder chug. You probably can’t breathe and hate the taste of beer. Take a deep breath, focus on the chug, and don’t think about how it tastes. Toss the can/bottle and take off. Burp as much as possible, but don’t force anything or there might be unexpected consequences.

Lap 4. Last beer! Take small sips if you have to to get through it. Run as fast as you can towards the finish. After that, keep or give up your beer as you see fit.

Have you ever run a beer mile? What’s your top tip?

I'm a 43-year-old living in Berlin, Germany and currently training for the 2020 Berlin Marathon.

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1 comment

  1. It was good to hear about Beth in this forum. She used to run with our running/drinking club while she was a grad student at Penn State a few years back. I think our training regimen, both the running and drinking parts, helped her. It was a proud moment for us when she won that beer mile as a dark horse back in 2014.