"I can chug, no matter what."
So says Corey Bellemore, a 22-year-old runner from the University of Windsor in Canada and the world-record holder for the beer mile. Last summer, while competing at the Beer Mile World Classic in London, Bellemore set the mark in his third time participating in the event, running a 4:34—13 seconds faster than the previous record set by Lewis Kent.
The beer mile—a race in which competitors drink four beers and run four laps, ideally on a track—began gaining popularity online, so Bellemore's University of Windsor track team decided to combine athletics with their end-of-season "drinking week." The first time Bellemore ran the beer mile, he finished in five minutes, 27 seconds—two minutes ahead of the rest of his team.
"I didn't know what to expect," Bellemore says. "Everyone is like, take your time on the laps. Get those beers down, but take it easy because it comes back up pretty quick. Everyone was like, 'Man, I think you could be good.'"
The beer mile didn't cross Bellemore's mind again until two years later, when a friend came over with a six-pack after hearing the news of Kent's world record.
"We're going to the track and we're going to do the beer mile," the friend said. "I think you can get the world record. Let's get after it."
So Bellemore ran. And four minutes, 39 seconds later, he had a world record, just not at an official event. Friends posted the video online and it went viral, with multiple news outlets requesting interviews. The next day, the Beer Mile World Classic reached out and offered to fly him to London that night to compete at the official world event.
"I did the beer mile on a Thursday night, was working Friday morning and then they offered to fly me out Friday night. I drove to Toronto, flew out, did the beer mile Sunday morning, set the world record again and then flew home," Bellmore says. "I was in England for 50 hours, broke the record and that was it. It was the most spontaneous trip I've ever taken."
Bellemore credits a few things for his success at the beer mile. The first is his ability to drink and, er, hold it down. His record total for beers is 18, which he says he accomplished with some friends a few summers ago.
"If I'm out of breath, if I've had seven-plus beers, I can chug no matter what," Bellemore said. "For the most part, I can hold it down. I've never puked in a beer mile."
The hardest part of the event is not the running or drinking, Bellemore says.
"After you chug those beers, the first hundred meters of the next lap, you really have to focus on getting the burps out," Bellemore says. "You want to burp, but not burp too deep because then you'll puke. There's a lot of carbonation in those beers and you want to get that out of your stomach."
There's a certain burping technique that works best in the beer mile, Bellemore notes. One overzealous belch and things get gross pretty quickly.
"You have to focus on trying to get everything out of your chest and burp it out," Bellemore says. "You really have to control that burp. You have to focus on not puking during those burps. I know a lot of guys, Lewis, he'll do a couple of [400-meter runs] with beers just to prep his body. I try to keep it as normal as possible. I just pray that when I get into those races, I can hold it down."
Being good at drinking isn't the only prerequisite for running a good beer mile. Participants also have to be in good enough shape to, well, run. Which is to say you probably won't see people with massive beer bellies breaking the record anytime soon.
"If you want to run it fast, it's about getting in good enough mile shape," Bellemore says. "It's super, super hard no matter what it is—alcohol, Gatorade, water—if you're out of breath trying to chug. It's hard to get down."
Bellemore's status as the world-record holder has brought him numerous opportunities, including a sponsorship with Adidas, making him the second beer-mile athlete with an endorsement.
But even with endorsements and some notoriety, life as the beer-mile champ still has its downsides. At the running camp where Bellemore teaches young kids, he was introduced as the world-record holder for the "chocolate milk mile." But soon his secret got out, and kids at the camp were peppering him with questions about drinking beer.
"They all have Google," Bellemore says. "They all found out."