Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Alison Wade
Chris Kimbrough runs four laps, drinks four beers in 6:28.6.
On Sunday afternoon, Chris Kimbrough, a 44-year-old mother of six, shattered the women’s beer mile world record by 13 seconds, running 6:28.6 in her first attempt at the event. The previous record was held by Seanna Robinson, who ran 6:42.0 in 1997.
Beer mile records are not recognized by USATF or the IAAF, of course, but they are tracked at BeerMile.com, where a list of widely used rules can be found. The general idea is that competitors drink a beer, run a lap, and repeat the sequence three times.
The beer mile originated in Canada in 1989, and for a while, was mostly run by college-aged males looking for some fun. But with several high-profile record attempts in recent years, combined with Flocasts putting on its first Beer Mile World Championship in Austin, Texas, on December 3, the event has become more popular than ever.
Indeed, it was the announcement of the World Championship that eventually led Kimbrough, who lives in Austin, to the event. Over the summer, members of the Rogue Racing Team, which Kimbrough trains with, were discussing it and encouraged her to give it a try.
As the owner of several masters national championships and one of the best local runners of any age, Kimbrough knew she had the speed. She hasn’t done a lot of track racing, but she estimates that she could run about 5:00 in a beer-free mile right now. When she heard that she was being considered for inclusion in the beer mile field, she decided she had to see what she would be getting into.
What was meant to be a low-key testing of the waters turned into something much bigger.
“A friend of mine videotaped it,” Kimbrough told Runner’s World Newswire. “I didn’t want it to be a public thing [laughs], and then it ended up being a public thing. I really didn’t think I could do it. That’s a lot of beer in six minutes!”
As she looks ahead to the World Championship, Kimbrough knows that drinking is the area where she has the greatest chance for improvement. While the men’s world record holder, James Nielsen, spent approximately 30 seconds drinking his beers, Kimbrough took roughly 72 seconds to drink hers.
In Nielsen’s video of his run, it’s clear that he put significant planning into his record attempt. He trained his stomach to expand to handle large amounts of carbon dioxide, and gave thought to details such as the angle at which he held his head while drinking his beers to maximize his speed.
Kimbrough, in contrast, has not yet put as much thought into how to maximize her beer mile performances. She did make sure to drink room-temperature (actually, garage-temperature) beer because it goes down quicker, and said she did read the rules in advance, but that was about the extent of it.
It’s evident that, as with any competitive person trying to excel at something, the wheels are already turning as she looks ahead. “If I could break 6:00, now that would be good,” she says.
“The run part wasn’t that hard for me. The last two [beers] were harder to get down because I felt like there was this air there, so it wasn’t going down. Having all those beers in [my] stomach didn’t really bother me as much as I thought it would. I think learning how to get the burp out more before you get to that next beer would probably help,” she mused.
But at the same time, she says, “I have six kids. It’s not like I’m going to be doing a lot of practicing.”
She also admits that she might benefit from going into her next record attempt better rested. The morning of her record, Kimbrough ran 11 miles. Including her warm-up, she was on her 13th mile of the day by the time of her record performance.
Kimbrough says it’s the carbonation, not the alcohol, that is the hardest to deal with. She notes that she didn’t feel the alcohol until after she finished her run, at which point she went for a long walk with her husband, the man holding the beers for her in the video above.
“Over the next 10 minutes, my friend said I was very funny,” said Kimbrough. “I definitely needed to go walk around for a while.”
Beer Mile contestants can drink almost any type of beer, but it must be at least 5.0 percent alcohol by volume. Kimbrough drank Alteration Ale, made by the local brewery Hops and Grain, because it’s one she enjoys; it has 5.1 percent alcohol. Nielsen, on the other hand, chose Budweiser because of its lower carbon dioxide content.
Chris Kimbrough runs in the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials. Photo by Alison Wade.
As a stay-at-home mother of six kids, Kimbrough says of her training, “I kind of fit it in the cracks,” estimating that she runs 45-55 miles per week. Her children—five girls, one boy—range in age from 17 months to 16 years. She’ll begin massage school next week, which will add another factor to the equation.
Kimbrough didn’t take up running competitively until she was in her 30s, after she had four kids. She had been a point guard for Rocky Mountain College’s basketball team, but did not have a running background. She began cycling, then moved to triathlons before focusing on running.
In early 2006, she began working with elite masters runner and coach Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, who helped Kimbrough take her running to the next level. Kimbrough qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007 and finished 39th in the 2008 Trials, running 2:42:54.
Ayala-Troncoso still coaches Kimbrough, who said, laughing, “I made sure that I told her I did [the beer mile] before it went viral.”
Kimbrough will turn 45 next week, but says, “I’m still trying to hit some of the times that I used to hit. Maybe it’s the breaks I’ve taken and the not running early [in life] that I still have some longevity.”
Kimbrough’s recent race results include a 17:02 5K, a 35:56 10K, and a 59:54 10 miler. She bounced back quickly after her last pregnancy, having her 17-month-old daughter in May of 2013, and running 1:03:46 for 10 miles about five months later.
“After having six, you kind of know what your body’s doing…It [isn’t] hard to come back when you exercise a lot during the pregnancy,” said Kimbrough.
Aside from the upcoming Beer Mile World Championship, Kimbrough also has her sights set on the USATF National Club Cross Country Championship in December, as well as future masters national championships.
She’s not sure if she’ll do any training or time trials involving beer as she prepares for next month’s Beer Mile World Championship, but says, laughing, “I don’t know. If I do it, I’m going to maybe keep it secret.”