French Bloke Runs

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Tag: Mile

Beer Mile World Classic

I’ve been talking about it for a long time, but now I’ve finally ran a Beer Mile! And no less than the Beer Mile World Classic with the world elite of the discipline! The rules are simple: drink 1 beer then run 1 lap and repeat 4 times! If you throw up or don’t finish one of your beers, you’ll have to run a penalty lap. There are petty regulations (only 355ml canned or bottled beer with at least 5% alcohol) but that’s pretty much it. Quite simple uh?

Lanky Pole had planned to come with me but in the end he couldn’t make it because this plonker injured his foot. Worst of all, he didn’t even come to support me and chug a few beers during this day-long event. Never mind, I came with my Serpentine Kit – which I am required to wear when I race – and the Serpie running vest helped me making friends (and foes) as you’ll see. I arrived quite early at the event and I did well because I was running in the second race. It gave me enough time to change, watch and learn from the first race and warm up for my own race. When I was given my bib, the clerk recommended to burp as much as possible to avoid puking. This was really good advice: whilst you can always bring your own beer, the default beer was Heineken, which is very gassy and will definitely provoke barfing when running if the gas isn’t eliminated quickly. And I didn’t want to get a penalty lap.

On the starting line, all the runners have their finger on the capsule of their beer, ready to open it. The speaker (very funny guy by the way) counts down and Psssst, everyone opens their beer and starts chugging. For crying out loud, this is much harder than I though! Not only it’s a tasteless beer, but it is so gassy that I’m mostly swallowing foam, which makes it really hard to down it quickly. I belch several time and I finally manage to finish it but at least seven or eight guys managed to finish theirs before me. What a piss poor start, I’m very disappointed in my performance so far but there’s no time to dwell on that so I start running. The first quarter of lap is continuous loud belching and I’m not the only one. Very early in the race, I spot who’s going to be my pacemaker: it’s a redhead dude with a striped vest (white, orange and green).

At the end of the first lap, as he’s cheered upon, I understand that he’s a Mornington Chaser. But oh, I’m being cheered upon too! A bunch of people shout “Go Serpie!” and this gives me an extra boost: I raise my fist in the air and I chug faster. I’m getting the hang of it. But it’s still very hard to chug on this crappy beer and the Mornington Chaser is still well ahead of me. More burping and belching while running, but I don’t feel like vomiting, that’s a good sign. At the end of the second lap, I hear more heartwarming cheering and I start chugging on my third Heineken. This bloody chaser is still ahead of me but I managed to gain some precious seconds in the chug zone, so now he’s within reach: 4 minutes and 10 seconds after the start of the race, I accelerate and I finally overtake him! But not for long and he overtakes me again just before the chug zone. With the fatigue, it’s getting harder and harder to swallow anything, but I manage to down my last can just a second before the chaser. I run a fairly good last lap (1:20) and I finish on a beautiful sprint that the speaker describes as ‘unnecessary’ but it allows me to finish 10 seconds before my opponent in the very unimpressive time of 7 minutes 35 seconds. Anyway that’s my new PB and I’m proud of it!
[Watch the video of the race on Trackie]

Serpentine v Mornington Chasers

Serpentine v Mornington Chasers

We shake our hands and exchange a bit of banter around club competition. Other Serpies come and congratulate me on my time and on my final sprint. It turns out there are plenty of us here but most are volunteers and marshall the race. I make plenty of new friends, we exchange running tips and devise new strategies to improve our Beer Mile time. The best suggestion is to compete with a better and flatter beer. Someone reckons Guinness is good for the job but I’d rather go for an ale, unfortunately London Pride doesn’t contain enough alcohol to be officially recognised, which is a shame because it’s one of the flattest beers I know, but I promise myself to search and find the ideal beer. There are a couple of brewers at the tracks and some of their beers are very good candidates.

Speaking of brewers, I enjoy my rest time by drinking a few pints of proper beer while other races take place. I want to stay and watch the elite races. The women are quite impressive, but the men are even more impressive! Corey Bellemore, a Canadian, shatters the World Record with a time of 4:34! It’s the first time in my life that I witness first hand a World Record in any discipline! Although I wasn’t impressed by everyone: the last of the elite race finished in 8:21 which is 46 seconds slower than me and makes me think that I could join or assemble a French national team!

During these races, I was hitting it off with the brewers and one of the volunteers (another Serpie) came to me with a Wally outfit and asked me if I could run a relay with it. I’m already a Wally, so I sure could! In my team was one of the brewers, another Serpie and Corey Gallagher, the legendary Beer Mile runner who broke the 5 minutes barrier first! I was truly honoured and decided to run up to that standard so I bought a bottle of Solvay Society Brewery‘s Saison for the occasion. It was much much easier to drink and I downed it in one go. I almost didn’t burp and I ran my 400 metres in under 70 seconds, so I made a pretty good effort to get our team to just 5 minutes and 40 seconds. but in the end, Team Canada won and set a new World Record at 4:06!
[Watch the video of the race on Trackie]

French Bloke is a Wally

French Bloke is a Wally

All in all, I had a splendid day, the recovery isn’t easy but you can be sure I’ll run it again!

More running with Serpentine

Like I mentioned recently, I just joined the Serpentine Running Club. I already had a hills session with the club and despite it being tough, I went back last week and I’ll certainly go back this Saturday. It’s not that I love running hills, but I’m not as good at it than I though I was and I can see that it is really beneficial. This time was even tougher than the previous session: we did 3 times 12 minutes of running up and down different hills in Greenwich park, but this time I was less ridiculous than the first time: I didn’t give everything I had in the first twelve minutes, so I had energy left for the 2 following intervals, and I didn’t finish last, I even overtook some runners during the exercise, so I’m getting there and it’s really rewarding to see that I’m getting better.

But the main event with the Serpies this week wasn’t the hills session, it was the Club Championship. Last Tuesday was the 1 Mile event, at the Paddington tracks. Mid-distance is far from my favourite kind of running but Lanky Pole convinced me to come to the tracks on that day. It was good to see so many runners at the same time and so many motivated and dedicated club members, it reinforced the sentiment of belonging, especially since everyone must be wearing the club’s colours for races.

Runners were separated into different groups depending on their expected performance. There were 2 groups of women and 5 groups of men. Based on my only time on a mile so far (5:42 at the Westminster Mile) I ended up in the ‘C’ group, which wasn’t too bad.

I did my warm-ups, dynamic stretching and all the trimmings. On the starting line, I was really intimidated and I forgot all the advice Lanky Pole had given me a month earlier at the Westminster Mile. The race began really fast: even though I was at the back of the pack, I knew couldn’t hold that pace for the 4 laps, so I stayed at the back, slowly leaving the runners ahead widening the gap. I think being the last and seeing the others further and further ahead put me down a little bit, and I didn’t run as fast as I should have. Even though I finally managed to overtake one guy in the last lap, I only finished in 5:46, which is 4 seconds slower than my performance at the Westminster mile. This was bad for 2 reasons: you’re supposed to race faster on tracks than on the road, and it was the first time that I didn’t beat my PB in a race.

Anyway, I didn’t let this get me down: in a way, I had a new PB because it was my first Mile on tracks. And I knew I hadn’t given everything I had: my lungs weren’t even burning at the end of the race! So I knew I’ll be doing better the next time. Anyway, someone was in a worse position than me: unfortunately Lanky Pole couldn’t run because he was injured and he was really upset about it. But it didn’t prevent him (nor me) from having a post-run pint with everyone at the pub.

Running track

Running track Photo by Colin Harris

Drinking & Running Races

I’ve already spoken of the intimate relationship between running and drinking, but sometimes this relationship is just too strong. Indeed, some crazy runners (or geniuses?) organise races involving running and drinking at the same time! I put together a list of such glorious races:

Beer

You already know that there are non alcoholic beers specifically brewed for runners, but there are also races for beer lovers:

  • Beer Mile: it is the most famous race that includes drinking in its rules: 4 laps, 4 beers. Each beer must be consumed before the lap begins. There’s even a Beer Mile World Classic (🇬🇧) in London next month, of course I’ll be part of that! And if you miss it, there’s the Flotrack Beer Mile (🇺🇸) in Texas next December as well as the Beerfit Running Series (🇺🇸) all across the USA.
  • Kastenlauf: this is the historical parent of the Beer Mile. This tradition dates back to 1982 in Munich and has many variants, the main one involves teams of 2 runners carrying a crate of beer between them and having to drink all of it before the finish line. Races include the Zurich Bierathlon (🇨🇭), the Welde Bierathlon (🇩🇪), the Schöndelter Bierathlon (🇩🇪), the Büdesheimer Biermarathon (🇩🇪) and probably many more.
  • Beer Lovers Marathon (🇧🇪): it obviously takes place in Belgium, in Liège to be precise. It is a standard 42.195 km marathon but you can find local beers at the rest stops along the course. Fancy dressing is mandatory and it looks like great fun with proper Belgian beer.
  • Great Breweries Marathon (🇧🇪): once again, the Belgian having the best beers in the world, only them could organise such an event: racing through several iconic breweries including the ones that brew Duvel and Karmeliet (yummy)! You can drink during the race, and you come back with a gift basket (full of beer, of course).
  • Shamrock 5K Beer Run (🇺🇸): unlike the name suggests, this one doesn’t take place in Ireland but in Indianapolis and Chicago in the glorious US of A. There is beer served at each stop and a pint at the end. It might be worth a detour, especially since the sponsors are not those brewers producing some infamous American light beer (which in my book equals to donkey piss) but a selection of some of these wonderful American craft brewers that gave rise to the revival of proper craft beer in the past decade.
  • Beer Belly Running (🇬🇧): not really a race, it is more an organiser of various running and beer drinking events in good old London, UK. I particularly like the Beat the Barrel race, which is a real team effort. But this year it has been replaced by the Great British Beerathon, which also involves eating on top of the drinking. What a shame I can’t make it on that day…
  • There are plenty of other running events involving beer, like the Brewery Running Series (🇺🇸) and the Alamo Beer Challenge (🇺🇸), but not during the race, as far as I could gather.

Wine

If beer is very much a thing in Germany, Belgium, the UK and the USA, a lot of wine runs will be found in France (of course) but not exclusively:

  • Marathon du Médoc (🇫🇷): as it claims on its homepage, it’s the longest marathon in the world. For those who don’t know, the Médoc is the superior kind of Bordeaux wine. So the day after the run, you’ll have a posh hungover and posh sore legs. It was created in 1984, so now it is quite an institution!
  • Marathon du Beaujolais (🇫🇷): the wines of the Beaujolais region don’t have quite the same reputation as the wines from Bordeaux, but it is my native region so I have a particular affection for this one, even though it doesn’t run through my village. I know people who ran it and it is epic.
  • Marathon du Vignoble d’Alsace (🇫🇷): if red wine isn’t your thing but you’d sell your mother for a glass of white, this is the race for you! Alsace is renowned for its luscious Gewurtztraminer, Sylvaner and Pinot Gris. And after the race, you can fill up your belly with the best sauerkraut and sausages.
  • Wineathlon (🇬🇧): this is actually a series of 10K races where wine will be served at rest stops. Even though these races are close to me now, I wouldn’t dare going there, knowing the quality of the wine that’s usually served in the UK.
  • Half Corked Marathon (🇨🇦): well Canada, that’s unexpected of you!
  • Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon (🇺🇸): yeah, there had to be a race in California in this list. Nope, not even moaning about it.
  • Wicked Wine Run (🇺🇸), The Ultimate Wine Run (🇺🇸): Run and drink bad wine all across the USA, yay!
  • I could find some other wine related races, such as the Maratona delle città del vino (🇮🇹), the Media maratón por los caminos del vino (🇦🇷), the Idaho Wine Run (🇺🇸), the Texas Wine Series (🇺🇸), Fuelled by Wine (🇺🇸), the St Clair Vinyard Half Marathon (🇳🇿) and the Winery Run (🇦🇺) but it seems you can only drink after the race. What a shame.
Marathon du Médoc

Marathon du Médoc Photo by Kinolamp

Spirits

You’d imagine that there would be a whisky race in Scotland or a whiskey race in Ireland but I couldn’t find any although it seems prizes in these lands are more often in the golden liquid form than in real golden monies. No tequila run in Mexico or rum marathon in the Caribbean either. Anyway, there are still some race based on spirits:

  • Vodka Trot (🇺🇸): I thought the Russians or the Poles would come up with such an insane race concept, but it had to be the Yanks…
  • Although I couldn’t find many races where you could drink spirits during the race, there are some races where you can enjoy a good spirit after the race such as the Semi-Marathon de l’Armagnac (🇫🇷) and the Marathon du Cognac (🇫🇷), and there’ll be good food too.

I’m sure I missed plenty of running events involving drinking and if you know of any, please add it it the comments!

Updates

Burning my lungs at the Westminster Mile

I once said I would never use the Imperial system on this blog. I lied. But this is all Lanky Pole‘s fault! When I signed up for the London 10000m, he convinced me to sign up for the Westminster Mile. At the time it made sense: it was the day before the 10K and it would be a good preparation for it. What a fool I was!

Westminster Mile map & bib

Westminster Mile map & bib

On Sunday morning, I met Lanky Pole at Green Park at 8:15 and we started scouting the race course. 1 mile is really short: it’s barely more than 4 times 400m and it’s actually usually ran on 400m tracks. It doesn’t even make a full lap around St James Park! And this mile is very scenic: it begins on the Mall, continues all around St James Park along the Horse Guards building and the Imperial War Museum and it ends just in front of Buckingham Palace!

Lanky Pole is switching from long distance running to mid-distance running, so he should be full of good advice for this distance but he only told me: “It’s easy, just run fast”. OK, actually, after that he gave me some real piece of advice and he said: “Start working at 800m, don’t start sprinting too early, 200m before the end is good”. Actually there’s much more to it than that and it even involves lots of strategy especially when it is ran on tracks but I just wanted to run my first one, so he didn’t get into that level of detail.

After our inspection, we began warming up: 10 minutes easy jog, some dynamic stretching, and a little bit of sprinting for good form. Of course, as before each and every race we took a leak and tied our laces properly – that’s the 2 most important things to do, remember! We then went to the starting line. Lanky Pole went in the first wave and I went in the second wave. My target was to run it under 6 minutes. I thought it was a pretty good goal: it’s a round number and it’s exactly the time I should do according to the race predictor based on my 10K personal best.

The horn blew and I started running. “Running fast” wasn’t a great piece of advice because I quickly realised that if I did that I wouldn’t survive the first 800m, so I followed the other runners in my wave. OK, maybe I went a bit faster than most because their pace seemed a bit slow. I hindsight I think I started too fast but apparently it’s a common rookie mistake and anyway, I wasn’t overtaken by many runners at the end of the race so I wasn’t too far off. I tried to look at my watch (like I do for longer distances) and stay at the target pace of 3:40 per km but it’s hard to glance at your wrist when you’re making such an effort and anyway it didn’t seem really accurate. It turns out I almost never ran at that pace and I was either much faster or much slower.

At the 800m mark, I though to myself “Did Lanky Pole said I should start working at 800m?” but I was starting to get tired so I though “Naaaaaah, it must be 400m before the end, let’s run slower”. Yes I know I’m a lazy bastard. But there was this heel-striking bugger running next to me and he was really distracting me with his heavy pounding and his slow cadence (I averaged 213 spm) and I was longing for the end. When the 400m mark arrived I started ‘working’ and left him behind. Apparently I wasn’t working hard enough and some other dudes overtook me. At the 200m mark, I couldn’t resolve myself to sprint, I tried to go faster but my legs wouldn’t follow, they were just aching too much. At the 100m mark, with the finish line in sight, I finally managed to overcome my fatigue and to accelerate. 10 meters before the end, I went flat out and released a loud scream. I believe this final scream is becoming my signature (remember my Olympic Park 10K).

I was really happy with my 5 minutes and 42 seconds, it’s 18 seconds better than my target and I was ecstatic: one new PB established! Lanky Pole was disappointed by his 4 minutes and 52 seconds, it was his first mile on road and he didn’t have his usual points of reference like he has on tracks. We went running a little bit to cool down but I couldn’t do too much of it because my lungs were burning and my throat was aching so much it almost tasted of blood. But it didn’t prevent me from stretching properly and from going to the pub to celebrate over a pint and a good British fry up. Not too much though because we still had to race 10K the following day!

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