Our writer fails heroically at the world's least useful athletic challenge.

Our writer fails heroically at the world's least useful athletic challenge.

The night before the race, I ate a fancy Italian dinner-like a man about to be murdered, gangland style. It seemed fitting; I'd been telling everyone that survival was my only goal. I barely trained, save for a pathetic mile on the treadmill on Thursday evening. Oh, and I chugged a beer right before my last supper. It took 24 seconds. Not as fast as I wanted, but I felt good enough afterward that I was mildly optimistic. Later, I celebrated with wine and Budweiser until after the bars closed. It was less than ideal preparation, but a beer mile isn't exactly a typical race.

Saturday morning-I arrive at Four String Brewery on Hague Avenue for the inaugural Columbus Beer Mile. There are more men than women, and almost everyone is under 35. Nine coed runners have donned cardboard boxes decorated to look like Thomas the Tank Engine, the children's TV show character. They go by the name Chugga Chugga Brew Brew.

At 10 a.m., race organizer Jay Toole gathers the runners for the second heat. The beer mile is part of the Rock 'N' Hops racing series coordinated by his company, the Runiversity. He explains the rules-each person must chug a beer within the designated zone and then run a lap around a 400-meter course. Drink, run and repeat, four times, until the beer is gone and the mile is completed. The beers must be in regular bottles or cans and at least 5 percent alcohol by volume. Any broken bottles or vomiting requires an extra "victory" lap for the offender. There are garbage cans lining the drinking zone.

His few simple rules delivered, Toole sends the 10 o'clock runners chugging and sprinting into the cold morning air. By the end of the heat, it's pure carnage. One of the Thomases sits cross-legged, burrowing his head into his cardboard shell like some disconsolate, drunken turtle.

Toole calls for the 10:30 heat. My four Heinekens are arranged on a table in the drinking zone. I'm jumping up and down for some reason, trying to figure out how to channel my inner Bannister and Belushi simultaneously. The beer mile world record is 4:34; Toole says anyone who breaks 10 minutes is doing fantastic. I'd settle for anything under 15.

And off we go. The first beer goes down easily. I'm out in third place, though I quickly slip to fourth. No matter, I tell myself, instantly competitive-I feel good, and if any of the leaders start to slide, I can run them down in the final 400 meters. The second beer is a bit more difficult. Soon after starting that lap, I let out a burp that feels, shall we say, unsafe. Any semblance of confidence is gone halfway through the third beer. I need another stomach. The fourth beer finally delivers the death blow I anticipated, and I regurgitate some foam into a nearby garbage can, accepting my dutiful victory lap. I jog back in seventh place out of 10, registering an 18:47.

After the race, I chat with my fellow competitors Katie and Abraham Cordova from Brokeman's Running Company. All of us are giddy now, pleasantly buzzed, standing in the sunshine. I feel like I accomplished -something. And I almost want another beer. Almost.