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First things first: Alli Morgan is a really good runner.
She’s a former U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier in the 10,000-meter run and the marathon, has a half marathon personal best of 1:13, and placed 14th in the rigorous U.S. Mountain Running Championships in mid-August.
But the thing is, she’s also really good at chugging beer. So much so, that combining her talents have helped her become a three-time world champion in the quirky, stomach-sloshing event known as the beer mile.
The 38-year-old mother of two and assistant high school cross-country coach from Bend, Oregon, won her third straight Beer Mile World Classic on October 23 in Leigh, England. Although she was slightly off the pace of the world record she set in 2020, Morgan clocked an impressive 6:32.2 mile to defeat an international field at the Leigh Sports Village track. Canada’s Corey Bellemore won the men’s race in a new world record of 4:28.1.
Becoming the international queen of the beer mile has been a work in progress since her first one in 2016.
“Yeah, I think I became good at chugging beer in college, but that had nothing to do with running a mile,” Morgan said with a laugh this week after getting back from England. “Running a beer mile isn’t easy. People think, ‘Oh, that looks easy,’ and I’m a fast runner, but it doesn’t take just take fast running skills. You really have to be good at everything—chugging, running, and keeping it down—and you have to not rush it because, after you start running, it’s hard to breathe so you really have to take more time drinking so you don’t choke or cough it up.”
The beer mile has been a thing for decades among college track teams, but only in the past decade or so has it become popularized with championship races, media coverage, and international rankings. Essentially, a beer mile entails the tandem act of alternately drinking 12-ounce beers and running semi-fast 400-meter laps around a track four times in succession. In other words, pound a beer, run a fast lap, then repeat three more times to complete a mile.
Runners can choose their own bottled beer, but it must have at least 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Plus, you can’t spill, spit out, or leave any beer behind in a bottle, and if you throw up during the run, you’ll have to run a penalty lap.
Morgan drank Bud Light Platinum, which is a 6 percent ABV beer but it goes down easier with less foam when chugging it. She flew her own beers from the U.S., carefully wrapping each one in bubble wrap and packing them into her checked suitcase so they wouldn’t explode on the long flight overseas.
“She’s is a legend,” says Nick McFalls, who has produced the Beer Mile World Classic, the de facto world championship of the beer mile, since 2015. “It’s probably not really a natural thing for her, but she’s just decided she wants to be great at it. We’ve had some elite women runners try to run a fast beer mile, but it hasn’t really worked out most of the time. It’s a hard event, and the things that make you a successful distance runner don’t make you a successful beer miler.”
Morgan supplemented her typical 40 to 50 miles a week of running this summer with some speed work at 5-minute mile pace, as well as beer mile–specific workouts that included practicing chugging beers during interval workouts. A week before traveling to the Beer Mile Classic, she did a time-trial in the low-6:20s.
What happens after pounding four beers and running a mile that fast? “You feel really loopy,” she admits. “You can’t throw up during the race, but I usually try to find a garbage can or a bathroom immediately afterwards. You know that having all of that liquid in there, you know it’s going to come up. I try to eat something after that.”
Morgan won the 2019 Beer Mile World Classic in England in Berlin, Germany, with a 6:24.1 effort. Last year’s event had to be contested virtually because of Covid-19, so each runner was given five days to produce a video of a fast beer mile. With her family cheering her on, Morgan ran a 6:16.5 to eclipse the previous women’s best of 6:17.8 set by Liz Herndon set in 2014.
At this year’s championship, England’s Polly Keen gave Morgan a challenge on the first two beers and laps of the race, but after that, Morgan outdrank and outran her to claim the $500 first-place prize. Keen held on for second in 6:45.6, while American Kassandra Marin was third in 7:10.5. (See official results here.)
Morgan’s beer-chugging splits were 11.8, 24.4, 19.3, and 17.0 seconds, while here 400-meter times were 78.3, 82.0, 80.9, and 78.2.
“Sometimes people get out quick, but it’s really the last two laps that you have to be really consistent with your drinking and your running,” says Morgan, who wore Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 carbon fiber–plated racing flats. “I typically have had trouble with my third beer. It’s because you’re so full of beer and you’re tired and it’s just hard to drink.”
Morgan was a state champion high school runner in Ohio, then ran collegiately for the University of Kentucky. After that, she ran professionally for the ZAP Fitness post-collegiate program in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, for several years, competing in the 10,000-meter 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and placing highly at several national championships on the track and roads—not to mention running her personal best mile of 4:40.46 (without beer, of course) in 2011.
She and her husband, Thomas Morgan, who also ran for Kentucky and ZAP, settled down after their competitive running careers ended and started a family (they have 9-year-old twin boys) and eventually moved to Bend. They’ve both continued running, even if with less intensity and lower volume.
“When you get bored and want more challenges, that’s where it takes you,” she says. “But being a world champion at anything is pretty darn cool. Just the title itself sounds pretty awesome.”