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World Records Fall at Flotrack Beer Mile

Austin is justifiably proud to be called the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Perhaps Austin Mayor Steve Adler should also proclaim our fair city as the “Beer Mile Capital of the World.”

After two beer mile world records were set last night at the second World Beer Mile Championships held in the parking lot of the Austin American Statesman, Austin is certainly the epicenter of the Beer Mile universe.

Last December, in the first prime-time running of this insane, boisterous event, three world records were set, but the biggie—the men’s world mark—was missed by three seconds.

Not so last night.

In two thrilling, sudsy battles, Beer Mile world record-holder Lewis Kent ran an unbelievable 4:47 mile (all the while guzzling four, 12-ounce beers) to smash his own world record by four seconds. Not be outdone, Beer Mile newbie Erin O’Mara dominated to win in an equally incredible 6:08 which absolutely laid to waste the existing women’s world best of 6:17, set last year in Austin by Beth Herndon.

In Beer Mile racing, the actual running—400-meter laps around the Statesman parking lot—is obviously important. But the real key in Beer Mile racing is the drinking. Contestants must throw down a beer right at the start of the race then three more after each lap without vomiting. Exactly who could pound a beer the fastest (the top men do it under five seconds) would prove decisive in each race.

In the women’s mile, nine of the top Beer Milers gathered, including several elite runners and two golden oldies: Chris Kimbrough, 46, who has lived in Austin for a dozen years before recently moving to Portland, and Andrea Fisher, a 43-year-old triathlete and swim coach, who has been one of the top athletes (swimming, triathlon and running) in Austin for years. Fisher had the fastest time in the field (6:28.2) while Kimbrough’s best was just a fraction slower.

But the drinking has a way of leveling the playing field and, in this race, maybe ignorance is bliss. Because O’Mara had only done one Beer Mile before last night, Just two weeks ago, she won the Michigan Beer Mile in a sluggish 6:40. Although O’Mara, 31, from Linden, Michigan, has blue ribbon running cred—her marathon PR is 2:43 and she’s a ’12 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier–her beer drinking ability was the big unknown. (O’Mara has Central Texas ties. She used to live in San Antonio and trained—running, not drinking–under Gary Brimmer who was in attendance last night.)

Any doubts about O’Mara’s ability to chug Bud Light Platinum were erased on the first beer which she chugged in an astonishing eight seconds and got the jump on Fisher (who downed her’s in 10 seconds) and the rest of the field.

Kristy Jahn, a professional triathlete from Vancouver, British Columbia and the sixth fastest beer miler in the field (6:43), led the first lap in 73 seconds, but was given a warning about leaving some beer in her first bottle. On her second bottle, Jahn allowed plenty to run down her chin and though she didn’t receive a second warning—an automatic DQ—her drinking slowed with each lap.

Not O’Mara. She chugged her second and third beer without leaving a drop and opened up a substantial gap on Fisher, Jahn and Kimbrough, who had a big cheering section, and was running well but drinking poorly.

“I picked up a lot of good tips from some of the other women,” said an obviously buzzed O’Mara after winning in 6:08. “They showed me how to walk straight ahead in the transition while opening my beer and then hold the bottle really close to my mouth while I chugged it. I didn’t really know how to do it until they showed me. I’m grateful. To win this is just amazing. Would I do another Beer Mile? I’m ready right now. Let’s go.”

Fisher finished a distant second in a PR of 6:26 (the masters world best) with Jahn third in 6:38 and Kimbrough finished fifth in 6:46. “My running was better than my chugging,” said Kimbrough.

No chugging problems in the elite men’s race.

Kent, a 22-year-old from Ontario, is the acknowledged master of beer chugging—and also a pretty darned good miler who has gained plenty of experience by running seven Beer Miles in 2015.

The first beer, right at the start, would prove decisive. Although defending World Beer Mile Champ Corey Gallagher emptied his in a jaw-dropping 4.9 seconds, he received a warning for not finishing every last drop. Upset with the start, Gallagher claimed he wasn’t ready. “I thought the horn went off too quickly,” said Gallagher, “and I never got focused or into the race.”

Kent certainly was on point. He was only a fraction behind Gallagher after the first beer and was much more consistent in his running —and beer drinking (7.35 seconds per beer) than Gallagher who trailed by four or five seconds most of the race.

On the final lap, Gallagher threw down his beer in five seconds and valiantly tried to close the gap on Kent with a hard-to-believe 61-second final 400 meters but Kent never faltered and held him off for the victory (worth $5000 world for the win and record bonus, same as O’Mara).

Kent’s finished it off in a world Beer Mile best of 4:47.17 to break his own record of 4:51. Gallagher of Winnipeg, Manitoba still finished with a six-second personal best of 4:48.62. Beer Mile newbie Michael Johnson from San Luis Obispo, California was an impressive third in 5:06 (a five-second PR) while Beer Mile patriarch Jim Finlayson—another Canadian–was fourth in 5:08.

The key, said Kent after winning (and throwing up afterward), was “being able to chug with Corey. Last year, he outchugged everybody, but this time I was able to keep up with him and then outrun him a little. The most important part of racing is to get the beer down quickly and then, while running, just dealing with all the carbonation. I did a lot of massive eating and drinking in my training to stretch out my stomach which allowed me to burp without puking during the race.”

Kent, who has a shoe deal with Brooks and had a large contingent of Brooks employees (and Brooks CEO Jim Weber) on hand to cheer him on, flew into Austin on Tuesday after taping an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and said he wasn’t well-rested or even in his best shape.

“I’m in 4:12 mile shape right now (no beer),” said Kent. “I know I can go a lot faster {in a Beer Mile} when I get my mile times down where they should be. Now that I know all the beer-drinking tricks, this record won’t last long.”

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