Dave Clingan: Chugging along to beer mile immortality — almost

Many of you know my Oregon friend Dave Clingan, a world-class M50 runner, co-webmaster of this site and USATF mover-and-shaker (first as an active athletes rep, and later as chair of the rankings and awards committees). He also coaches preps near his Portland home and guides kids on his youth team (two of whom won gold medals at the national Junior Olympics in Southern California). Now check this out: Dave sought a world record recently in a beer mile. What’s a beer mile? Well, nobody can tell this story better than Dave himself. The following dispatch is a hoot. Cheers!

Memoirs of a Beer Miler
By Dave “Train Wreck” Clingan

I flew to Burbank, California, on Friday, August 12, with fairly high expectations. I’d never run a beer mile before, but felt confident that the world record in the “Grand Masters: (age 50+) was within reach.
How hard could it be to drink four beers and run four laps in under 7:46?

That’s almost three minutes slower that my regular mile time, and drinking a 12-ounce can of Coors before running each lap sounded like a piece of cake. In fact, I was confident enough that I didn’t question the wisdom of eating an oversized burrito for dinner the night before the 3rd Annual Simi Valley Beer Mile.

The next morning, I did a little chugging experiment with a 12-ounce can of water. It went down easily in 12.5 seconds. I knew that beer would take a little longer, considering the carbonation and all. But not much longer. The real question was how difficult would the drinking be after running a hard quarter-mile lap on the track. This question lingered during the long drive from South Pasadena to Simi Valley, interspersed with occasional doubts about the sanity of flying from Oregon to California to drink and run. But it was too late to back out now.

Besides, this was no frivolous frat stunt. It was an official beer mile alright, and I was in the hunt for a world record.
At about 2 p.m. that day, in hot and breezy conditions, I found myself on the starting line of the track at a local high school in the company of 15 other fidgety competitors. Each of us had paid a nominal entry fee and submitted pseudo-names, by which we were individually introduced.

My name of choice was “Train Wreck.” It was intended to be ironic, not prophetic. We were briefed on the rules, then instructed to grab our first beer.

The can felt icy cold in my hands and I immediately realized that my chronic nail biting habit would be detrimental to the tab-popping aspect of the competition. The gun went off and I winced a little flipping the tab with my stubby index finger. Game on!

The first beer went down fast. Under 17 seconds. After tossing the empty in the bag, I was off on my first lap. Whoa, my stomach felt achy and bloated right off the bat. It was grim, but several belches later the discomfort subsided, and I covered the first lap at a pretty good clip. So far so good– at 90 seconds I was well under world record pace and in the lead. Then, as I started to working on my second can, beer mile reality came crashing down on me. I was huffing and puffing a bit from that 74-second 400m and found that getting more than 2 or 3 sips of beer into my belly between breaths was a nearly impossible task.

About halfway through the beer, I knew I was in trouble. I held it in my hand for what seemed like an eternity, asking the beer gods for mercy, pleading with it to go down. Meanwhile, the second place guy (a contestant from Germany), easily chugged his second beer and well on his way around the track. My stomach felt like crap, but I finally downed the second beer and took off.

Again, the first 100m was hell. My stomach was sloshing with beer, churning up the carbonation. This time, the obligatory belches felt dangerously close to potential heaves. Puking is a major rule violation, requiring an additional penalty lap. At least I dodged that bullet. Gas expelled, lap completed, on to beer three.

Beers three and four were Abu Ghraib nightmares. I must have spent over a minute consuming these beers, a feat so unexpectedly formidable and unpleasant that I was seriously tempted to just quit the whole stupid thing. My hopes of breaking seven minutes were dashed and the possibility of getting the record seemed remote. Just finishing became my objective. I bucked up.

The third lap was grueling but the worst part of it was anticipating the fourth beer. When I grabbed that beer out of the cooler and it slipped out of my hand and rolled onto the track. I vaguely heard someone encourage me to get a replacement, but I was so focused on the beer (not to mention a little inebriated), so I reeled it in and flipped the tab. I should have known that dropped can equals foam, as foam immediately gushed out. Nevertheless, I sucked it down with determination, fearful that excessive spillage might constitute grounds for disqualification. Finally the last beer was behind me. What a relief.

My final lap began tentatively now that my stomach was a holding tank for 48 ounces of beer. But the prospect of being done with this ordeal was so uplifting that I blitzed my final lap in about 72 seconds.

I crossed the finish line in second place, a good 40 seconds behind the young German. The record, however, remained unbroken. My time of 7:58 was 12 seconds short. It was called a “valiant effort” by the meet director, and I did come away with one of the coolest trophies I’ve ever seen (runner perched atop a 16-ounce can of Budweiser). But to me, it was a train wreck.

I’m not sure you could call this a life-altering experience, but it has given running sober and drinking a can of beer at a civilized pace a whole new meaning.

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August 26, 2007

2 Responses

  1. Steve Nearman - August 30, 2007

    Don’t give up Dave. I trust that you just didn’t train right. Beer intervals would have done the trick. Repeat Beer 200s, repeat Beer 400s, Beer fartleks, Beer striders. Come on Dave, I am surprised a training stickler like you came into such a world record attempt so lacking in legitimate training! Cheers…

  2. BMo - May 2, 2014

    Dude that was hilarious!

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