Q&A: Lewis Kent, the world champion of running while drunk
Our Six in the Six interview with the GTA college kid who runs the world's fastest beer mile
Last week, Mississauga’s Lewis Kent ran, chugged and belched his way into the history books by running the fastest beer mile in recorded history. The sport, which requires runners to drink four beers and run four laps, originated in the 1970s at Queen’s University, and now encompasses several annual competitions—including the world championships in Austin, Texas, where Kent, a collegiate athlete at Western, set his record. Here, he talks preferred running brews, appearing on Ellen and how to avoid ralphing on the racetrack.
Can you tell me a bit about the origins of the sport, and when you discovered you had a knack for the combined art of running and boozing?
Well I’ve been running since 2007. The first time I did the beer mile was last April. I ran it in six minutes, which was pretty decent, but I didn’t think I’d ever be world class. Then, last fall, they announced there was a world championship in Austin, and if you ran under the qualifying time they would fly you out there. That’s when I really started to go for it.
Beer mile has been around for a long time, though. It was started by collegiate athletes at Queen’s back in the seventies. It only got massive last summer when someone broke five minutes for the first time, and then a big media company in America called FloTrack decided to host the first world championships last December.
What kind of perks come with being the beer mile world champ?
It has been pretty awesome. I was on Ellen, which was really cool. She was just as nice as she seems. In my first class back at school, my professor called me to the front of the room. He said, “This is more important than anything else we’re going to talk about today.” He put my race on the projector and my whole class watched. Everyone has been congratulating me. It’s great.
What sorts of things does a beer runner have to consider that a regular runner doesn’t?
Most runners don’t have 1.4 litres of fluid in their stomachs. The carbonation is big, too. A lot of people, when they go to burp, all of the beer comes out. If you puke, you have to run an extra lap. If that happens, you’re pretty much out of the race. As soon as I finish a beer there’s a natural burp that comes up, and then I try to get a couple more decent burps in.
You spend a Friday night pounding beers with your buddies. Does that count as training? Are nights at the bar something you can write off on your tax return?
Maybe eventually. That would be amazing. Any time I’m out drinking with my friends, I consider it training. When I practice on weeknights, I’ll often practice with water, or non-alcoholic beers. At this point, I don’t think I can shave much time off of my beer drinking, but I can definitely work on my running speed.
Recently you signed a sponsorship deal with Brooks, a running shoe company. Are you the first beer athlete to score a mainstream sponsorship deal? And are you looking for a beer sponsorship, too?
I’m the first that I know of to have a serious sponsorship deal. I’m pretty excited about it. The terms of the deal are confidential, but I’m really excited to be working with such an established company. My running beer is Amsterdam Blonde. I tried a lot of others, and it seems to be the one that’s light and doesn’t weigh me down. We have been in touch with Amsterdam. We’ll see what happens.
Inebriated athletes don’t get the same respect as their sober counterparts. Can you imagine a day when the beer mile is included in the Olympics?
There’s a big push right now to get professional track and field meets to finish with a beer mile race. The hope is that it will happen next year. With the Olympics, it seems unlikely, because there’s so much stigma around drinking. That would be a dream come true, though.
This post originally had an incorrect spelling of "FloTrack."