Aussie Josh Harris, 22, slashed more than four seconds from the beer mile world record with an unratified 5:04.9 at the Parkville event in Melbourne last weekend. SPIKES caught up with Harris to find out more about the art of chucking beer down your neck and running very fast.
How many beer miles have you raced in, and why did you first decide to give them a go?
"I heard about the beer mile in 2009, and after the track season finished a group of mates and I decided we would attempt the famous event. My debut was 8:22 but I knew I had the potential to at least get that down to around seven minutes. Back then I did not possess the drinking ability to challenge the world record.
"I’ve competed in between 10 and 15 races now, usually around three a year. I have also tried variations of the event including the chocolate milk mile, a beer two-mile, and I also plan to try the UK version where pints are consumed."
What qualities do you need to be a great beer mile runner?
"The most important aspect of the beer mile is the drinking, but it is more complex than the ability to drink fast. I have many friends who can drink one beer as fast as me but fall over after the second, third and fourth beers.
"There is an art to being able to drink the last three beers without needing to breathe, and also the ability to hold them down without the urge to vomit [resulting in a penalty lap]. It obviously helps to be a decent runner but many great milers can’t break ten minutes for the race."
What are you better at, running or drinking beer?
"Drinking, for sure. I am nothing special as a miler [3:51 1500m] but in terms of being able to continually scull beers I’d rate myself as equivalent to a 3:30 1500m runner. Put the two together and it’s a combination that is very hard to beat."
Spikes & beer: our kind of party
When did you first realise you might be able to break the world record?
"My PB and Australian record was 6:03, and at that stage I was content to leave the event as a sub six-minute guy. I was at a party one night and I saw a guy with this strange technique who could drink a beer in around five seconds. I was keen to learn more.
"After my training partner and best mate James Hansen came out of nowhere and broke the Australian record by almost 40 seconds, this gave me belief that it was possible. I realised that if I learnt that new technique then maybe I could get my record back."
Can you explain what prep you put in for a beer mile?
"I went into this year’s state champs with no training, other than a few nights out. I ran a controlled 5:17. Before the Autumn Classic I completed one training session where I did 400m intervals with 15 seconds recovery, and in the last set I used beers for the recovery.
"This was to try to simulate a race while under more fatigue from the early intervals. Without even noticing in the days leading up to the race I would have a tendency to drink everything faster than usual."
Do you work much on the technique of your beer drinking between laps; how long does it take you to drink the beer?
"Not anymore, but it has taken practise. When I debuted in 2009 my first beer was over 30 seconds. I got this down to about 10 by 2010. I then learnt my current technique and I can drink a beer in around five seconds out of the bottle."
Do you ever feel drunk when running the race?
"No, but I generally start to feel it a little bit watching the other competitors finish the race."
Do you ever feel ill after the race?
"Very rarely, although I actually had a post-race vomit on the ‘warm-down’ beer after breaking the world record last week. I felt fine, but the first sip of the fifth drink didn’t agree with me."
Down the hatch: Josh Harris can drink a bottle of beer in five seconds
What did it mean to you to break the world record?
"It was mainly a feeling of relief. I crossed the line with no celebration, probably for two reasons. The first being that I knew I had a faster time in me because the lid did not come off the last drink for 10 seconds. I thought my record chances were gone. The other reason being it has been a long time coming.
"Those who follow the beer mile will know I ran a 5:02 this time last year which was deemed unofficial because there was not enough proof that the drinks were empty. I have since tidied up my technique and beer choice to ensure this won’t happen again. I think I can go a bit faster. If it wasn’t for the mishap on beer four last week that I would have ran 4:55-4:56."
Should we lobby the IAAF to introduce the beer mile into the World Championships?
"I think appreciation is slowly growing for the event worldwide. As world record holder I would be all for the race to have its own world championship.
"I’m unlikely to go into any other world championship as a contender. The Canadians and Americans think they’re the best in the world but the Aussies are now showing the talent on offer, with multiple guys in the top 10 official times."