I had been running for about three minutes when I saw the dinosaurs starting to gain on me. Understandably, I picked up the pace, intending to outrun them.
That was the second mistake I made last month during the annual NC Beer Mile race at Bond Brothers Beer Co., since I almost immediately felt a cramp coming on. The first was signing up for it to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong. A beer mile is definitely one of those bucket-list, bragging-rights kind of accomplishments. It’s a race where everyone chugs a beer, runs a quarter-mile lap, then repeats it three more times.
Costumes are encouraged, hence the dinosaurs I was trying to out-run.
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When my editor asked me the day before the race if I was a runner or had been preparing for this, I just laughed. As it turns out, she might have been less concerned about my story and more concerned about my well-being.
As it turns out, I just didn’t train well enough.
Next time, if I can summon the courage for another one, I’ll do better – and step one is to drink a lot more beer.
In the meantime, I’m here with advice so you don’t wind up like me.
Some people insist that if you throw up, you have to do another lap, but not the family friendly race I ran alongside several hundred other crazy people. Even without a race penalty, though, you don’t want that shame.
There are many variations of the race – including some that throw in twists like juggling, eating raw eggs, playing classical music, solving a Rubik’s cube or substituting the mile with a steeplechase or, for the truly insane, a half-marathon.
This was the most common type, a simple drink, run and repeat. Bond Brothers provided cups of a light, not-too-hoppy ale, and we runners thanked them for not giving us an imperial stout.
Going into it, I thought the running would be the hard part. After all, I drink plenty of beer and don’t run plenty of laps.
But no. The first and second beers went down fast and easy, just like they used to in college. The first lap was fine, and the second wasn’t too bad.
Surely this was going to end all right, I thought to myself, full of hubris.
But the third beer was lukewarm, and it took maybe 20 seconds to drink. I spent the next lap dreading how much warmer the fourth beer would be. I saw a fellow runner barfing and vowed not to follow in his footsteps, figuratively or literally.
That fourth beer was hot and flat (I blame the 90-degree weather and not Bond Brothers, which makes excellent beer), and the final lap wasn’t any more pleasant.
Before the race, I set a goal of completing the event in 11 minutes, and toward the end I thought I could push and not miss that mark by too much. Then my stomach started screaming at me: “Don’t be a hero!” I finished in 12:10.
Whatever. I only cared that I hadn’t lost my lunch on the streets of downtown Cary.
If you do want to give a beer mile a try, here’s some advice.
▪ Be good at chugging beer, and have a stomach made out of metal.
▪ Don’t eat beforehand, but eat something immediately after. Your stomach will thank you for both.
▪ Try not to run a beer mile when it’s 90 degrees outside. Especially if it’s your first time running a mile outdoors since high school, like some of us.
I also talked to two pros for advice.
One is Jason Biggs, a former N.C. State football player who started the NC Beer Mile three years ago along with some friends at FS Series, a racing event company.
Biggs gave me the most valuable advice I didn’t know I needed: “Burp a lot.”
I laughed, but it was a lifesaver. Really.
My friend John Harwell, who ran cross country for N.C. State, also had some pro tips for inexperienced runners: Take it steady and don’t try to sprint in that first lap or two, no matter how good you think you’re feeling.
He also told me something surprising. This isn’t just for craft beer lovers and frat boys anymore. Some of the world’s most elite runners are starting to enter beer miles, as a novelty or a new challenge.
ESPN even did a segment on the messy races and their high-profile competitors.
That’s less than a minute off the world-record pace for running a mile WITHOUT drinking four beers.
And even in Cary, some people took it very seriously.
The winner was David Meeker, a co-owner of Trophy Brewing Company. At 5:57, he was the only runner under the 6-minute mark. Biggs finished seventh, in 6:40, and my buddy Harwell didn’t run, but he did come with some friends to laugh at those of us who did.
Finally, my last piece of advice? Pay attention to how the beer will be served.
With most beer miles, runners bring their own cans or bottles, but Bond Brothers had cups. That has pros and cons. It’s easier to chug from a cup, but impossible to hide if you haven’t finished the whole thing.
As a journalist, I appreciated the transparency. As a runner, I wished I could have cheated.
Doran: 919-86-2858; Twitter: @will_doran