A hybrid race that promises glory, heartburn

Jay Toole knew he'd struck a cultural nerve when his first "beer mile" race attracted more than 100 runners without any prerace promotion. It was kind of an afterthought, a fun idea he posted on Facebook, and he hadn't even worked out all the details. No matter, last year's inaugural Cleveland Beer Mile was a success. On Saturday, Nov. 12, Toole is bringing it to Columbus for the first time.

He's aiming for the small but growing cross section of people who are both avid runners and enthusiasts of guzzling beer-or at least those who enjoy one of the two activities enough to deal with the inescapable pain of combining them. A beer mile is a masochistic endeavor at best, a race in which participants must chug a 12-ounce beer and then run around a 400-meter course. And then do it again. And again. And again. That's a total of four beers and one mile, as fast as possible. The concept calls to mind the motherly caveat about not swimming after eating-this is like devouring a Thanksgiving turkey and then attempting to swim the English Channel to prove her wrong.

(The agony and ecstacy of a Cleveland Beer Mile runner, courtesy of The Runiversity)

Toole is an Ohio State grad, now living in Cleveland, who founded The Runiversity, which helps other organizations host successful running events. His Rock 'N' Hops racing series was started as a way to pair craft breweries with charities to promote local beer while raising some money for good causes. A beer mile is the natural, if supercharged, extension of that mission.

Registration for the Columbus Beer Mile ends at noon on Thursday, Nov. 10. For those looking to participate on Saturday at Fourth String Brewing (660 N. Hague Ave.), Toole has some advice:

The event is BYOB, so you can pick your own poison. It must be in unopened bottles or cans and at least 5 percent alcohol by volume. The most popular beers, as listed on beermile.com, are Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller High Life (Toole's choice), Coors and Heineken. Don't get too ambitious with your beer. IPAs are probably not a great idea. If you must go with a craft beer, he recommends a nitro like Left Hand Milk Stout because it's not as carbonated. "At the end of the day, the thing that's going to kill you is the carbonation, making you burp," Toole says. Regardless, be prepared to burp and run. It will happen. And just hope it's only a burp. It isn't really a runner's race, so pace yourself accordingly. A friend of Toole's routinely runs sub-five-minute miles, and he couldn't even finish the Cleveland Beer Mile in the max 25-30-minute timeframe. But a beer drinker with a running background has a shot. Another participant in Cleveland hadn't run competitively in a decade, and he finished in 7:40, good for third. The winner finished in 6:15. If you break 10 minutes, you're doing fantastic. (The world record is 4:34.35, according to beermile.com, if you're feeling cocky.)

For more information or to sign up, go to the Columbus Beer Mile website. Or you can attend just to heckle the poor souls looking to push the bounds of athletic and volumetric capability. I'll be there cataloguing my inevitable failure for an article in the January issue of Columbus Monthly. Godspeed.