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April 12, 2017

Reader submission: I ran a beer half marathon in 1:43. Here’s how it went

13 beers and 13 miles is no joke. Together and consumed in under 2 hours is even crazier. It was brought to our attention that a reader completed a beer half marathon in an hour and 43 minutes so after coming across the video, more information was sent our way into the accomplishment. Here’s how Emmet Farnan completed the Holy Half in South Bend, Indiana.

In the past few years, the running world has been buzzing with interest in the Beer Mile. Some good and some bad. While most people reading this are likely familiar with what this means, for those of you that are not clear on the specifics – the Beer Mile consists of drinking one full can of beer before each lap of a mile. I recently had the inspiration to apply the same concept to a half marathon. I know…The idea of drinking a beer before each mile of a half marathon sounds insane, something I have been reminded of by a myriad of people since, but I figured it was worth giving it a shot.

There are many questions that have been posed to me since my completion of this half marathon, and I will do my best to explain the training and decision process that led to this race. In short – there was none. In fact, I only officially decided to take on this challenge less than 18 hours before the race.

As a student at Notre Dame, one common tradition to participate in is the annual “Holy Half” that is held every spring on campus. As a senior, this would be my last opportunity to run it with my graduating class and so in at the beginning of 2017, I considered the fact that it might be fun to do it one last time. I also was 100% on-board with contributing to the charities (Education Bridge, South Bend Center For The Homeless, Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County and The Logan Center) that the race helps out. Unfortunately, between classes, searches for post-graduation opportunities, and extra-curricular activities that would have me away from campus for three weekends in the spring, I never actually signed up.

The day before the race was an unseasonably warm and sunny (for reference – a blizzard cancelled the race last year), and the idea hit me. Knowing that I was going to spend almost all of my Friday night on campus working on my Aerospace senior design, I was bummed about having to miss out on the great weather and the opportunity to spend the night drinking with friends. So at 5:30 pm the night before the race, I messaged a group chat of my friends asking if anyone was willing to carry the beers for me and then posted in the class Facebook page asking if anyone was still selling their bib number. By 6 p.m., I had a number for the race and rider willing to stay with me for the race.

Fast forward to the race. After having notably more pre-race jitters than normal, I jumped into the pack at the starting line having already shotgunned my first beer before Mile 1. The GoPro on my head is filming and as the first mile starts, I begin running next to people who have no idea what I am embarking on. The first two miles were extremely slow; a combination of needing to stay with my biker on narrow paths and fearing overworking myself early. But by the beginning of Mile 3, I start to hit my stride and start running a sub-seven minute mile pace between the beer breaks.

As any runner will tell you, distance races can be a blur when looking back on them. When I threw alcohol in the mix, that fact was only compounded. Despite this, there are a number of experiences that were overarching through the whole race. Primarily, there were a lot of mixed responses as other runners saw passed me while I was shotgunning a beer to only have me run past them before the next mile marker. Some people declared me “their hero.” Others said that if I could do the half marathon with 13 beers, they could do it sober. But mostly, people were in disbelief and unable to comprehend the fact that any person would voluntarily drink that many beers during a half marathon.

After the responses, the next recurring theme was the extreme feeling of being full. It is hard to put into words how impossibly full I felt after my eighth beer, especially knowing that I was only slightly past the half-way mark. Paired with this was the fact that running agitated the beer causing the need to spit out foam every couple hundred meters. I can confidently say that the last three miles may have been some of most uncomfortable miles that I had run in ages.

Ultimately though, I was able to push through it mentally and finish with a time of 1:43:42. I accomplished it. The next 30 mins consisted of numerous people coming up to me asking if I “really drank a beer every mile,” or “was that you shotgunning a beer at Mile…”

And after a short nap caused by the lack of sleep and lack of sobriety, I was back working on my senior design by that afternoon.

What have I learned from this experience? First and foremost, I found out that a beer half marathon is physically possible and it is even possible to finish it in under two hours. Secondly, as a majority of people have since told me about themselves, there are not many people confident in their ability to finish 13 mile OR 13 beers alone in under two hours making my feat all the more valuable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What inspired the idea to do this?

In recent years, the beer mile has become wildly popular so that certainly was the beginning of the idea to combine drinking and running. Beyond that, I wanted to run in the annual fundraiser half marathon that is held on Notre Dame’s campus but I had not had the time to train properly for the half and so I knew that I had to take it as a joke or ran with friends. This is because when it comes to running, I am rather competitive and so without having the proper training, I was destined to be upset with my time After joking around with a friend about “how crazy it would be to have a beer at every mile,” I realized that it was a feasible thing if I had some way of getting the beers to each mile. I liked the idea because I had no expectations on what a good time would be and even if it ended up being remarkably slow, at least I would still have drank 13 beers and so probably wouldn’t be bothered by the slow time.

What was the training like?

I decided only about 18 hours in advance that I was going to give this challenge a shot, meaning that I really had zero training particularly for this. I am not sure if I had even went on a 6 mile run in all of 2017 up to this point.

Why Coors Light as the choice of beer?

I just had a case of it in my fridge.

Did you ever think of quitting at any point?

No. I certainly thought that it was terrible at some points but never once did it ever cross my mind that stopping was even an option.

Is your mother proud?

She is happy to hear that I was safe afterwards. I don’t think she is bragging about it to anyone about it though.


You ran in HS. So how did you manage to stay in shape and what do you think you could run without beer?

Freshman year, I was training individually to possibly try out for the Notre Dame track team. It was a long shot but the chance disappeared when I got in a bicycle accident over the summer. Since I returned to running, I try to run at least 3 or 4 days a week if my schedule allows it but have hit a number of setbacks including a torn hamstring and other injuries. At the beginning of 2017, I was on a training schedule, inspired by an Instagram by Kyle Merber, I ran 1 timed mile each week for January and February. I was able to run as fast as a 4:47 in early February which is less than 20 seconds from my personal best in HS. I also participate in several intramurals and am a member of the ND Club Field Hockey Team.

If I ran it without beer, I am not sure how fast I could have ran it without training although I would be upset with myself if it wasn’t below 1:25. In fully trained condition, I think I could have a strong chance to at least come close to the 1:20 barrier. All in all though, this 1:43 was just for fun and really was testing the waters to see what was possible.

What has been the response people have to hearing what you did?

A: My closest friends instantly thought it was a “typical Emmet thing to do and perform well on.” A lot of people thought it was just an April Fool’s joke but upon seeing the video I made, were some combination of the following: confused, amazed, in disbelief, or sick at the thought of doing it themselves. The most common response that I have heard is “I don’t think I could run 13 miles OR drink 13 beers in that amount of time, yet you managed to do both at the same time…”

Would you ever do it again?

Definitely. I think that I could even drop my time below 1:40.

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