The fall racing season usually spans three months, starting with a couple of low-key events to remind our bodies how to race. Something in September to get a sense of how things are going, unsticking some of the adhesions that seem to hold us after a summer away from that kind of intensity. We build from race to race, and if things go well, the season ends in November with some kind of on-the-stage Denchian performance at our national championships. But my season won’t be like that. For me, the season has been ratcheted down to two rasping races, only four days apart. November 29th, the Canadian Cross-Country championships at Vancouver’s Jericho Beach. Shower, wash my spikes in English Bay, shove them in a bag, and catch a flight to Austin, Texas, where, on December 03, I’ll race the Beer Mile World Championships. A bullet season that enters and leaves the body quickly, raking lungs, heart, liver. The Jericho race should be straightforward. Expect pissing rain, temperatures just high enough to stop it from condensing into snow. Expect Odie, a set of lungs perched on ostrich-like leg muscles, to power confidently through the mire. Expect him to make it onto the podium for the fourth straight year; will it be gold for the first time? Expect a couple of former National champions from Ontario, and medallists from Vancouver, to bid for the title. No hoopla. We’ll fly in, race, and get out. An assassin’s strike. No standing around socializing before or after the race, not with this crowd. No blowout party. Clean off the mud, straighten our ties, run fingers through our hair, and step back onto the airplane. Settle in and leaf through the En Route magazine. Get off the plane and cab home.
Unless Austin is your destination, in which case you’ll swap your En Route for a Pahlaniuk. You’ll order a beer from the flight attendant, drink it straight from the can in 7 seconds, and order another. The attendant hasn’t even taken the next aisle’s order. Hasn’t even turned her body from yours. Touch down at the Austin-Bergstrom airport where, if you’re early, you’ll wait for Liwing’s flight to arrive from Sweden, Colreavy’s flight from Australia, before carpooling in a sweaty boozy cab to the hotel.
The inaugural Beer Mile World Championships, hosted by Flotrack and held in Austin. December 03, 2014. In comes Canadian Corey Gallagher, ranked second all-time with a 5:01 p.b. Hannan, Kent, Cunningham, Anderson. A wolf pack of American men in the 5:18 - 5:25 range. The Swedish record holder. The second fastest man in Australia. There’ll be a big cheer for 5:19 guy Nick Symmonds, fifth in the 2012 Olympic 800m (in a time quick enough to have medalled at every other Olympics). A swagger man. He cold-called Paris Hilton’s dad before the 2012 Olympic trials, asking permission to date Paris. Dad apparently was ok with it, and so was Paris (for one date, at least).
My 5:09 best is from seven years ago. I don't have that kind of speed these days. In fact, I expect to finish last in the race, but I have to be there. I need to race. The beer mile has gone from a decade of marginality, to mainstream in 2014, since James Nielsen became the first man to break 5:00. It made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times emailed asking if they could interview me; they called me a pioneer. We're laughing about it, sure, but we're also seriously enjoying its current éclat.