It turns out that Nick Symmonds has run his fair share of beer miles. He explains why he couldn't resist another one ahead of today's Beer Mile World Championships.

Nick Symmonds remembers his first beer mile surprisingly well – our memory goes hazy after a white wine spritzer.

“I remember I was in a fraternity at the time and had spent a lot of time running and a lot of time drinking. I wanted to combine the two and see how fast I could run,” says Symmonds, who won silver in the 800m in the Moscow World Championships last year.

“At the end of my junior year one of the local colleges invited our college to compete in one at night. We went up and surrounded the track with out cars to light it up. We had a great time doing it.”

Today, the 30-year-old Willamette University graduate will run another beer mile. This one won’t be all fun and games, though: Symmonds will be running in the inaugural Beer Mile World Championship (try saying that after a couple of cold ones) in Austin, Texas, and the competition will be fierce.

The event start-list includes Corey Gallagher, former beer mile world record holder (5.01.57), and hot-shot Swede Markus Liwing, who holds the beer mile half-marathon record (2.46). And though Symmonds might stand out as the pre-eminent athlete in the field, he insists running fast is just a minor matter in getting round the four (and a bit) laps.

“You don’t have to be a world class miler to run a good beer mile,” he says. “You have to be able to put 48oz [1.36 litres, which is two and a bit pints] of liquid in your stomach in a combined total of under 40 seconds.

“The first one’s not hard, the second one not terrible, but three and four are almost impossible. It really is just fighting your gag reflex and the pain in your stomach.” 

Nick Symmonds SPIKES ()

“I spent a lot of time running and a lot of time drinking. I wanted to combine the two.”

Symmonds’ beer mile PR currently stands at 5.19, more than 20 seconds off the WR time. There are certain other athletes he thinks could be up to the task of of an assuage on the record.

“I have had the pleasure of drinking with Pierre Bosse of France before, and he is just a phenomenal runner and a phenomenal drinker, I think he could run one hell of a beer mile.

“There is Josh Harris from Australia [previous beer mile world record holder with 5:04.9], who has put up some phenomenal times. The Canadians are always good.”

But with neither of those connoisseurs of a fine beverage in the picture, Symmonds believes he could be in with a chance of winning today’s race.

“I’ve never had any real competition to push me. I know that I’m an extremely competitive person, and if I see someone ahead of me, you’ll see lots of fire in me to run faster and possibly drink faster, so I think we’ll just have to get out there and see.” 

Nick Symmonds ()

It's important to stay hydrated during training

Win or lose, new world record or not, Symmonds, who ran a beer mile after the Olympics in 2012, says today’s event should hopefully catch the attention of non track and field fans.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to do it in 2012 was that it helps people who don’t necessarily follow track and field keep their interest in it. And people may not understand what a 3.56 mile means, but when I say I ran a mile and I drank four beers in 5.19, the time on the track still doesn’t necessarily register, but the fact that I drank four beers in five minutes and 19 seconds sounds impressive and they wanna know more.

“Anything that we can do to kind of bridge the gap between pop culture and running I think is a great thing for our sport.”

And as well as promoting the sport, today’s event is keeping alive something of an old American ritual. Or at least saying that makes it sound a little more respectable.

“It’s kind of a time-honoured tradition here in America that a lot of universities, when their cross-country or track season is over, everyone kind of gathers together and does something like this,” Symmonds says.

“It’s just a fun way to celebrate being fit and being done with the season.”

Rumour also has it that Symmonds will be challenging British runners to the UK version of the beer mile – the chunder mile – which requires the runners to drink four pints of beer [568ml, 20oz], rather than four 12oz cans. So which one is harder?

“That's tough,” he says after a long pause. “I think it’s harder to do a chunder mile, but I think it’s also faster to do a chunder mile because you can drink the beer so much quicker out of a pint glass. But it’s physically harder because you have so much more volume.”

We're on the case organising that one.

You can read the full interview with Nick Symmonds in Forever Sports' December issue.

Photography: Brooks Running and John Jefferson