Lewis Kent is enjoying “the best of both worlds.”
“I love drinking beer; I love running. And I’m getting paid to travel around the world and do it,” said the 21-year-old fourth-year Kinesiology student.
Kent currently holds the world record for the fastest ‘Beer Mile’ at 4:47, and has traveled to compete in Texas and San Francisco, as well as faced a whirlwind of media appearances, including with Global TV, ESPN, TMZ, TSN and Sports Illustrated. He also recently signed a shoe deal with U.S.-based Brooks Sports, Inc.
The so-called ‘Beer Mile’ has been around since the 1980s as an underground camaraderie event for varsity athletes during their off season. Over the last few years, it has grown to the point where financial backers, such as EPSN and FloTrack, have made it a worldwide competition.
The race takes place on a standard 400-metre (or quarter-mile) track. Participants drink a beer, run a quarter mile, and then repeat the process three more times for a total of four beers over a mile.
Kent, a Mustangs cross-country and track-and-field varsity athlete, attempted his first Beer Mile after his indoor track season ended in April 2014.
“I came in like fourth or fifth, ran it in around six minutes, which was a respectable time,” he said. “I just did it for fun with some varsity athlete friends in Hamilton.”
Then, halfway through his fall cross-country season, Kent suffered a knee injury and stopped competing. An admittedly competitive guy, Kent slowly got back running and had a stretch of seven weeks until the new track and field tryouts.
“I like to keep challenging myself and training can get boring. So, I thought, ‘I’ve run a six-minute Beer Mile; let’s see if I can get it under six minutes,’” he said.
His goal was a 5:20 mile in hopes of qualifying for the first-ever FloTrack Beer Mile World Championship. Kent ended up clocking a 5:19 and getting an invite to the Lone Star State last December.
“I pretty much got treated like an elite athlete.” laughed Kent, who finished fifth in the event.
With school and the indoor track season beginning in January, Kent put down the beers and picked up the books, looking to wrap up his third year of Health Sciences. That spring, after varsity season, Kent thought he would take another shot a getting his Beer Mile time under five minutes. In July, Kent ran 5:01.
That time earned him an invite to San Francisco’s Beer Mile Classic.
Since, the record time has headed even lower. This past October, Winnipeg’s Corey Gallagher set a new mark with a time of 4:54.38. Following that, Kent bettered that mark with a 4:51.9 and surpassed his own record with a 4:47 at the Flotrack World Championship in Texas.
“A year and a half ago, I had never done this before – and then all this,” Kent smiled. “I tell people 99.9 per cent of Beer Miles are for fun. I’ve had a cape on, fairy wings on, others will wear Speedos or one-pieces. It’s a celebration among friends and athletes.”
Heading off to Texas next week, Kent said his top priorities remain the same.
“School and athletics are always first for me,” he said.