As if jumping into a half marathon on a whim wasn’t a questionable enough decision already, Emmet Farnan, a senior engineering student at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, found a way to make things even more difficult for himself: He decided to drink a beer at each mile marker.
A former high-school cross-country and track athlete, Farnan completed his feat at the Holy Half Marathon on April 1. He finished a Coors Light before starting the race, and then downed another at each mile marker. (He arranged for a friend with a backpack full of reserves to accompany him on a bike.) Still, he completed the race in 1:43:42, running just under eight-minute mile splits, and captured the whole thing using a GoPro. (See it here; includes some not-safe-for-work language.)
“There was no point where I thought I wouldn’t finish,” Farnan says, despite deciding to run just the day before the race. “I thought, you know, I’ll do it, but I haven’t been training properly. How do I run it without being worried about my time?” The answer was "beer."
Lisa Dorfman, certified sports nutritionist, author, and aspiring microbrewer, says that excessive drinking at any time is not advisable for anyone. But, “if you’re going to drink anything (alcoholic midrun), beer is probably your best bet.” Because the alcohol content in 12 ounces of Coors Light is fairly low (4.2 percent ABV), “we’re not talking about a lot of grams of alcohol. For the most part he got some carbs that are usable, and he stayed hydrated,” she says. (Cue jokes about light beers tasting like water.)
Farnan drew inspiration from the well-known beer mile, in which runners chug a beer before each lap on the track, though he didn't follow its rules, which ban shotgunning (the practice of drinking out of a hole punched in the can for faster flow) and the use of beers under 5 percent ABV. Farnan says he’d run a 6:50 beer mile in the past, and thus was somewhat familiar with combining drinking and running. Still, it was a lot of liquid: By miles seven and eight, “All I could think was how full I was,” he says—and that’s without consuming any additional water or fuel. He vomited briefly—which would lead to a penalty in the beer mile—but only “about 1.5 beers.”
Farnan says he didn’t feel very drunk—at least not as drunk as he expected—at the finish line. Dorfman says this is likely because the endorphins we feel after a long run can imitate feelings of intoxication (picture swerving, stumbling, and elated race finishers). She adds that while you likely can "sweat out" alcohol, it has to pass through your body first—Farnan wouldn't have been able to do so in real time. Still, he got up the next day to work on his senior engineering project.
Since the news broke, Farnan’s been surprised at the publicity. He even got invited to a Beer Lover’s Marathon in Belgium this June. He can’t make it—he's graduating—but he fully intends to participate next year. And the reaction around campus has been mostly positive: “I’ve had a number of people say it was inspiring,” Farnan says. “Like, ‘if he can do it with 13 beers, then I can at least do it.’”