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“I think a big reason why I went for a good beer mile time was because of that first Flotrack championship. I remember streaming it live and thinking ‘They’re running a 5-flat beer mile. This is fast.’ But, at the same time thinking, ‘These guys don’t have as good of a PR as me in the mile so why can’t I run that sort of time? I can do that.’” – Chris Robertson
Chris Robertson is the second-fastest beer miler in history and the American record holder in the event with his 4:37 personal best. The only person faster than him is world record holder and Canada’s own Corey Bellemore who has run 4:34.
Listener’s discretion is advised: There’s obviously lots of beer talk on this episode. We wanted to make it clear that we’re not encouraging irresponsible or dangerous behavior or drinking. That’s obviously the case if you’re not 21 years old or legal drinking age. Chris is a professional at it so some of what you might hear comes from his experience getting to that level.
In this episode, I got a chance to sit down with him while I spent a few weeks in Chicago. We talk about how he got so fast at this, we’ll dive into some of the history and evolution since the first sub-five minute beer mile was run in 2014, how fast he thinks the limit can be and more. Chris has also run 10:18 for the beer two-mile, which is just a disgusting performance so we talk about that and his hopes as the new owner of BeerMile.com
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When did you realize that you were good at chugging beers and then also running?
– “It’s interesting because it was never a point in time when I discovered that I was good at chugging beers. Just like distance running is, it was really a gradual progression over time. I had a couple of beer miles that I did in college – probably two a year, the team would get together at the end of the season and have a beer mile. I was pretty decent at it. I was running in the 6:00s and 7:00s but it wasn’t like I did the first one and could chug a beer in six seconds. It wasn’t until the end of college that I finally had a good day and ran 5:28. I submitted my time to BeerMile.com. All of a sudden, I got an email from Flotrack a couple of months later asking if I wanted to go to their world championships. That’s when I actually realized that I was decent enough to go. I was at the back of the pack that year of those who got invited. That was really the point where I was like, ‘If I actually practiced drinking and chugging, maybe there’s something to this…maybe I can get on the podium and compete.’”
What was the turning point for you in your beer miling career?
– “I think a big reason why I went for a good beer mile time was because of that first Flotrack championship. I remember streaming it live and thinking ‘They’re running a 5-flat beer mile. This is fast.’ But, at the same time thinking, ‘These guys don’t have as good of a PR as me in the mile so why can’t I run that sort of time? I can do that.’ I did a few beer miles throughout my last year of college to see if I can put some sort of time up on the board.”
What was different about beer miling when people were just getting under five minutes?
– “Earlier on, I think a lot of those guys that were doing it in those early championships, they could chug really well. They could chug the beer in one go. I don’t think it’s as much – maybe a few seconds here and there on the chugging. It was a matter of having a wave of 4:30/4:40 milers doing it and that could chug pretty well. Then, it was guys in the 4-teens and 4-00s. A few pros tried it. It’s all about finding that right combination of whether there’s that person who can handle the four beers and chug them fast that is also a 4-00s miler or faster.”
How do you train to chug faster?
– “The way to train for it is just chugging water out of an empty beer bottle or can – whatever you’re going to use. If you’re going to use a beer bottle, just leave it by your kitchen sink, fill it up with water and chug it. If you do that five times a day throughout an entire year, you’re gonna get pretty second-nature with chugging something out of a bottle. That’s all I did to improve the chugging over time. You just have to run faster and get faster. Now, there’s no chugging training for me…Going forward, it’s really just whether I can get faster at the mile. That’s kind of daunting in a way because it’s hard to go into a race and not only have to chug four beers but I have to PR in the mile today too. That’s not a great place to be mentally, because you know it’s going to hurt. That’s what it is at this point.”
The stars that need to align during a beer mile…You need to have a really good running day and you need to have a really good drinking day. There are no guarantees that either one of those lines up.
– “That’s why the world championships are super fun. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be. The world record holder, Corey Bellemore, is way faster than everybody but he could just as easily screw up and his stomach can’t handle it and he screws up or he spills a bunch of beer or he can’t get a bottle open. Anything can happen. One downside of that is that you can go to these races, look at the results and it doesn’t look as fast or good as you think it would because it is that case. Half of the people in any given race on any given day might have something go wrong…”
Discussing the fastest someone could run for the beer mile
– “I still kind of hold that it might be around 4:20. You have a 3:55 to 4-minute mile because you’re not going to run a 3:49 mile if you’re drinking four beers. If you’re in that upper three’s and roughly six seconds per beer then you’ll get around 4:20. Anything can happen. Who knows! It could be a sub-four someday.”
The difference between Corey Bellmore’s 3:57 mile personal best and his 4:24 world record is greater than Chris Robertson’s 4:13 mile personal best and his 4:37 beer mile personal best so is there a case to be made that his performance is more impressive?
– “I certainly have done more beer miles than Corey. I just have more repetitions under my belt so I might have the process down a little bit more than he does. Even still, 4:13 is a little stale of a PR for me. At best, I’m maybe a 4:08 or 4:09. Regardless, he’s 12 seconds faster but right now officially his 4:33 world record is only a little faster than my 4:37. That’s why I look at it as now is my time to get it before he goes for it again. If he’s listening, I’m going to get it this spring before he has another opportunity…If he throws down another 4:24 then I think that’s the actual game over for me on ever having a chance at the world record.”
Breaking down the 10:18 beer two-mile, which was evenly split at 5:09/5:09…
– “I would have never guessed that I was even because it didn’t feel like that…Everyone talks about this: Some of your best races that you can think of are not when you’re expecting it by any means. This was the same way. I’ve tried the beer two-mile a couple of times. Usually, I try it once a year. I can eat a lot so I know that my stomach is capable of holding a lot of stuff. When I’ve tried it I never made it past six or seven beers. Going into this, this was supposed to be a training workout for the beer mile world record attempt. I was thinking of doing a straight-up beer mile at the track and then thought ‘I don’t feel like running that fast today. What if instead of running a mile PR, I just tried to run 70-ish for the laps and do the beer chugs. It will still be a good training run since it’ll be like a five-minute beer mile.” Before going into the race, I thought ahead as to whether my out can be that I feel good and bring eight beers just in case. I brought eight beers. After the third and fourth, I didn’t feel full. It felt like nothing was happening. My legs felt fine. Once I had my fourth beer and I was coming down for the fifth, my wife was by the finish line and I was pointing at her to put up another beer…It was weird. Going into that night, I worked all day and felt blah…It just happened. The stomach agreed that day. That was the right pace to be running for whatever reason. I was very surprised it was that even of splits.”
Why did you force yourself to throw up immediately after finishing?
– “The reason I kept that in the video even though it’s gross is that I wanted people to know that I’m not keeping eight beers in me. That’s not healthy. I knew there’s no reason why I should have eight beers worth of alcohol in me within 10 minutes and just have it sitting…I felt like I needed to regardless. I was so stuffed and so full.”
A professional runner he’d like to see take a crack at the beer mile
– “Someone who is somewhat out there that he likes beer is Craig Engels. Obviously, he’s hella fast. The whole thing that’s so hard is that you don’t know how he’s going to respond to the volume. I don’t doubt that he could chug a beer quickly and obviously, he can run fast. I’m very curious about what he could do for a beer mile. I would love to see someone like Centro do it. I don’t know if he could do four beers – I don’t know what his level of party boy drinking is but he would be another one. Based on the vibe, a Tinman beer mile would be awesome to see all of them racing each other.”
Episode photography by Ryan Gooding Photography.