By Paul Gains
Although his personal best times won’t frighten Canada’s Olympians Corey Gallagher has been the subject of media articles right across the continent.
On December 3rd, 2014 Gallagher won the Flotrack Beer Mile World Championship in Austin, Texas with an ‘unofficial’ world record time of 5:00.23. An American by the name of James Neilsen laid claim to the record with a 4:57 clocking, run solo and recorded by his wife.
Now, the 27 year old Winnipeg native will line up in the Modo Spring Run-Off 8k race in Vancouver, March 22nd as one of the sport’s newest personalities. The race, held in picturesque Stanley Park, kicks off the 2015 Canada Running Series.
It has long been known that runners enjoy beer and over the years the major brewing companies have poured millions of dollars into road racing. The ‘beer mile’ seems a natural progression.
Competitors chug a beer at the start of each of the four laps of the track and try to maintain running efficiency. The popularity has even seen former cyclist Lance Armstrong attempt the feat - without success. The Flotrack Beer Mile World Championships attracted a stellar field competing for the $2,500US first place prize money although repeated attempts to get Jim Nielsen to compete were unsuccessful.
Among those Gallagher crushed in Austin, Texas that day was the 2013 IAAF World Championship 800m silver medalist, Nick Symmonds. The American, who was also 5th in the 2012 Olympic 800m final and has a personal best mile time of 3:34.55 (roughly equivalent to a 3:52 mile), left Austin with respect for his newfound friend. He could finish only 7th in a time of 5:41.71.
"The thing about Corey is that he is a good runner, but not a world class miler by any means," Symmonds explains. "However, when it comes to chugging a beer, or four, I'm not sure there is anyone in the world who can beat him. Combine good running skills and incredible drinking skills and you have Corey Gallagher, the world's best beer miler."
Symmonds ran a beer mile in 5:19 two years ago following the London Olympics. His participation attracted much attention. So when he turned up in Austin it was a major coup for the Flotrack Beer Mile World Championship. Gallagher certainly enjoyed hanging with the track star.
"Nick and I were together almost every night (in Austin) and after the event we went out and partied," Gallagher says of the world championship race.
"There was so much respect. After the event we were hanging out and he said ‘I don't get it, I am like a 3:50 miler and what have you run?’ I said I had never really run a mile. I have run 1,500m in 4:03 (roughly equivalent to a 4:21 mile). And he said ‘I am 30 seconds faster than you.’ It was really funny to hear that."
Gallagher is a postal worker who takes his training very seriously. Running between 75 and 80 miles a week he ran the 2014 Toronto Yonge Street 10k in 30:32. That earned him a credible 10th place.
"When training for the beer mile I am not just sitting there chugging beer after beer because it’s kind of counterproductive," he emphasises. "You have to be fit to do it. You can't just be a strong drinker.
"I like to have a few drinks now and then but, generally, it’s pretty low key. I work at Canada Post and I work at Stride Ahead Sports, a local running store, and then trying to get all the running in, get all the mileage in, I just don't have time. But after the end of the week, or, after a hard run, I like to have a nice beer."
In August last year he ran 5:01.6 at the Manitoba Summer Beer Mile in his hometown and so came into the world championships as a favourite. Since runners can choose their own particular brand of beer, as long is a minimum of 5% alcohol content, he was surprised to see all but two of his competitors copied his choice of Bud Light Premium.
He admits that the beer mile was originally a lark that he happened to be good at despite the fact that he is a moderate beer drinker.
"It was just one of those goofy things," he recalls of his start. "I was always a runner, running at the University of Manitoba. We would go out in March and clear the track of snow and do (a beer mile). You would look on ‘Beermile.com’ and see some of the fast times people run.
"I think the first time I ran one I ran 14 minutes. I was throwing up, it was an awful feeling. Then they convinced me to do another one. I kind of learned how to prep my stomach, not eat too much before. Along with that I am a bigger runner, bigger stomach, and was able to hold it down then came the fitness and just being able to run that fast."
Gallagher says his training includes drinking large quantities of water - not beer - on top of a big lunch, before going out for a distance run. His fellow postal workers have praised him although with reservations.
"It has been pretty good (at work)," he reveals. "Everyone has said things but I don't think they really understand the time that went into it. They really appreciate it and think it’s cool. But it is kind of the long running joke 'he will finish his route faster if you just give him a beer.' I don't think they fully understand how much I run."
Although the winter has been especially hard in Winnipeg, and he has been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time on the treadmill rather than risk injury on the icy streets, he is optimistic that he is in better condition than he was this time last year.
"The Modo Spring Run-Off 8k is going to be the rust buster of the year," he reveals, "and I will see where I am at. Then it will be the Toronto Yonge Street 10k and I’ll see if I can get a p.b. there.
"Usually I just race around Manitoba. I don't get too far out of town just with work, being busy, and stuff like that. But this last year I ended up doing the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, and had a really good time there. It’s a great race they put on there with the Canada Running Series. So now I want to branch out and get a little more competition."
While his focus at the Modo Spring Run-Off 8k is to run fast - he has set a goal of running well under 25 minutes - following the race he will enjoy a beer with other runners at the Stanley Park pavilion.
For More Information and race registration: CanadaRunninseries.com.