On a beautifully sunny Thursday evening in Northwest London, I'd finally resolved to head off for a track session with QPH. I had the pleasure of checking out the club last year and after a couple of introductory runs I had every intention of getting involved. Alas, a combination of injury and travel kept me away for longer than I'd hoped. But finally, injuries subsiding and my running routine getting back on track, I was ready to get stuck in.
As it transpired my first official training was more than I had bargained for. On arrival I glanced over to at an unexpected sight of folks lining up a series of frosty tins, 4 apiece, ready for some bizarre competition. My curiosity piqued, I was informed that this was a great day to have shown up as a newbie: the annual beer mile challenge. Prior to this, the only beer mile I'd heard of was in Bermondsey, and far more leisurely.
The rules of this event were clear: 4 beers, 4 laps, starting with drinking. You must finish your drink completely before heading off for the next lap and any chundering, voluntary or otherwise, will result in a penalty. Certainly not the training session I had planned…
My initial reluctance gave way at the slightest sign of encouragement and soon I'd been kindly equipped by my fellow competitors with what could be best described as an offie beer tasting. I figured that years of training in the pub would serve me well in this endeavour. But any delusions that I might have a competitive advantage quickly evaporated as it dawned on me that anyone mad enough to engage in such a competition may have, in fact, enjoyed a pint or two in their time as well.
With seven of us lined up, supported by a great crew of volunteers, we were ready to crack on. So how did it all unfold? Let's find out:
Lap 1: Peroni. The effervescent Italian made its presence known within the first 100 meters. I managed to keep a seal on it, with only some mild gas release. Already there was a clear differential growing in the field.
Lap 2: Staropramen. A reliable Czech number, which I will gladly partake of in a non-competitive setting, proved manageable as I set off again. I could see Tim, clearly a seasoned veteran, powering ahead just in front and I felt like I knew what to aim for in the pack.
Lap 3: Staropramen. The law of diminishing returns was evident with the second can. But I persevered, lungs fighting against the will of the stomach. While nowhere near the front of the pack, at least I knew I could prevent total capitulation. There was now a strong front runner, with Ali breaking away, fleet of foot and sturdy of stomach.
Lap 4: mystery IPA. Two words I'd normally have no interest in hearing at the pub, let alone on the track. But hey, beggars can't be choosers. Any hope of placing was out of reach, but at least I could limit the damage and avoid being lapped to preserve my pride. With both enough and too much left in the tank, I went for the sprint finish on the final lap. With friendly cheers and enormous relief, I got through the ordeal with a genuine sense of achievement.
The final result saw Ali take the title with a time of 7:12. While I settled for a respectable 8:58. They say to the victor go the spoils. If a combination of spoiling your dinner, gastric distress and a load a fun count, then I think we have all had a victory. While totally unexpected, I couldn't think of a better induction to QPH.