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American Elizabeth Laseter and Canadian Corey Bellemore put on quite a show at the Beer Mile World Classic on Saturday afternoon in Leuven, Belgium.
When it comes to chugging suds and running fast 400-meter laps around a track, they were the best-in-show among the 65 runners from 13 countries participating in the de facto Beer Mile World Championships.
Running a beer mile is simple: a runner chugs a 12-ounce (or 355ml) beer, runs one lap around a track and repeats that three more times, a beer for each lap, as fast as possible – all without having it come back up, what is politely referred to as a “reversal of fortune.” The clock stops for each runner after the fourth lap is completed, unless they spew, when an additional fifth 400-meter penalty lap is required.
There are only a few basic rules to keep these speedy time trials in Belgium from looking like raucous beer-guzzling scenes choreographed to polka music at Oktoberfest in Munich. One rule is to make sure the beer in each can is fully finished. A second rule is that each beer is completed within the 9-meter “chug zone,” between the waterfall starting line and the finish line of each lap.
Laseter is a competitive runner—she ran for Johns Hopkins University in college and runs for the Bat City Track Club running club in Austin, Texas. But the 33-year-old food writer and photographer is also an exceptional beer chugger, a critical skill when it comes to running a beer mile for the podium.
Unfortunately, Laseter—as well as several other top runners in the women’s race—was flagged for appearing to step outside of the “chug zone” before she had finished drinking a beer at the start of her fourth lap, thus negating what would have been a world-record 6:15 mile and a 25-second victory.
Aside from that small hiccup, those who watched the livefeed of the event—yes, the beer mile world championships was broadcast via livefeed—had to admire her high-performance execution. (Her effort broke down to roughly 25-30 seconds of chugging while running a 5:45-5:50 mile.)
Not only was Laseter given an “unofficial” finish, but so too was runner-up Laura Riches of the United Kingdom, who originally finished second in 6:30. That left American runner Melanie Pozdol, the third runner to cross the line in 6:41, as the one who was declared the winner of the women’s race. (Her pace was fast, too, roughly the equivalent of a 6-minute mile with 40 seconds of chugging beers.)
Meanwhile, Bellemore, a 27-year-old professional runner from Tecumseh in Ontario, Canada, won the men’s race for the fourth time by a huge margin, even though his time of 4:50 was well off the overall beer mile world record of 4:28.1 that he set last year. This year’s edition of the Beer Mile World Classic stipulated that runners must swig 5 percent ABV beers from cans, which most competitors find to be slightly slower than racing with beer in bottles. And no, “shotgunning” the beer in the cans is not a legal tactic.
All runners were listed as drinking Juliper beer, a pale Belgian lager with 5.2 percent ABV, the country’s best-selling beer.
Despite being the third-fastest woman on the day, Pozdol was thrilled with her new personal best time for a beer mile with cans, after racing against 20 other women from seven countries. A former professional oboist who took up running for fitness in college, she was fifth in the inaugural U.S. women’s beer mile championships back in August, with a 6:37 personal best.
“I was happy with how it went,” said Pozdol, 34, who lives in Chicago and works as a data analyst for Northwestern University. “Cans are different than bottles, for sure, but I practiced with La Croix, which is more difficult to chug than beer. Too much carbonation!”
In the women’s race, Belgium’s Lana Ryckaert took an early lead after drinking the first beer, but it was Laseter, Pozdol, and fellow American Kassandra Marin who were the first to complete the first lap and start pounding the second beer. Laseter was the first to start the second lap, and by the time she looped the oval to start drinking her third beer, she had built a 25-meter lead on both Marin and Pozdol.
Although Riches came on strong as Pozdol and Marin were slightly slower on their beer-chugging, it looked as if Laseter would run away with the title. But after finishing her fourth beer, she was walking out of the “chug zone” and put her can back to her lips, to make sure the can was empty, and was flagged by an official. She ran a fast final lap and crossed the finish line with a massive lead over Riches, but both were later DQ’ed.
Marin was the fourth-fastest runner, just four seconds behind Pozdol in 6:45 (her beer-mile PB for slurping out of cans), but after the DQs she was moved up to second. Three-time defending Beer Mile World Classic champion Alli Grace Morgan was the fifth-fastest runner in the women’s race with a 6:49, but she was DQ’ed for leaving too much beer in her cans. Germany’s Katja Tegler (7:07) was third, while Sweden’s Ella Sjöberg (7:24) was fourth.
The U.S. women won the team title as Pozdol and Marin finished 1-2, while the British beer swiggers took the men’s team championship based on the finishes of Joe Gebbie (4th, 5:17), Ritchie Gardiner (5th, 5:22) and Brogan McCawley (10th, 5:26).
“Unfortunately, it was not a good one for me,” said Morgan, who holds the women’s beer mile world record of 6:16.50 from the Beer Mile World Classic in 2020 and won the women’s USA title in August. “They required cans and I have never chugged cans and couldn’t quite get it right. I still finished as well as I could. It’s one of those challenging races that can go so many ways. I was out of my comfort zone from the start and behind significantly due to chugging poorly.”
Bellemore, meanwhile, was never been challenged in the men’s race. As a runner who has made a living at running fast open miles and beer miles—literally, given that he’s sponsored by Adidas—he lived up to his billing as the men’s favorite. (For reference, Bellemore owns a 3:57.42 PB in an open mile.) He didn’t disappoint this year, but instead put on a clinic and won the men’s race in wire-to-wire fashion, 15 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Emil Granqvist (5:10).
Dutch runner Thijmen van der Loop was third (5:17), then British runners Gebbie (5:17) and Gardiner (5;22), who were fourth and fifth, respectively. The highest-placing U.S. runners in the men’s race were Will Rial (17th, 5:38) and Zach Teed (18th, 5:39).
“The race was an absolute blast!” said Pozdol, who runs for the Chicago Fleet Feet Racing Team. “The entire experience of coming to Belgium was honestly amazing. I feel so grateful to have been a part of Team USA and to help rep women’s beer miling!”
The 2023 World Beer Mile Classic will be held next fall in Chicago, Illinois, and runners will be allowed to use bottles. Better start training.