More than Just a Beer Miler

Canadian Running - - CONTENTS - By Alexan­dre Cyr

Cana­dian Corey Belle­more is the king of the beer mile. The once ob­scure stunt caught the at­ten­tion of main­stream and so­cial me­dia just as Belle­more, a four-minute miler, de­cided to give it a shot . His beer chug­ging dom­i­nance has earned him spon­sor­ships and global me­dia at­ten­tion, but the 23-year-old wants to be known as more than just the beer miler.

Te­cum­seh, Ont., track run­ner Corey Belle­more rose to in­ter­na­tional fame af­ter crush­ing the world record for the beer mile, chug­ging four beers in be­tween laps around a track as fast as you can. The once ob­scure stunt caught the at­ten­tion of main­stream and so­cial me­dia in 2016, just as Belle­more, a four-minute miler, de­cided to give it a shot on a lark. His beer-chug­ging dom­i­nance has earned him spon­sor­ships and global me­dia at­ten­tion, but the 23-year-old wants to be known as more than just the beer miler.

In Au­gust of 2016, un­be­knownst to him, Corey Belle­more took an im­por­tant step to­wards be­com­ing a house­hold name. The Te­cum­seh, Ont., res­i­dent and Univer­sit y of Wind­sor a lum­nus was un­aware that his play­ful at­tempt at the beer mile – in which he ran alone, filmed by a friend – would earn him a plethora of fans, Twit­ter fol­low­ers, and an even­tual Adi­das spon­sor­ship. He also didn’t imag­ine that this world record-shat­ter­ing per­for­mance of 4:39 would score him an in­vi­ta­tion to the Beer Mile World Clas­sic in Lon­don (not the one up the high­way from his home, but across the At­lantic Ocean) – the very next day. Jet­lagged and not fully re­cov­ered from his pre­vi­ous per­for­mance, he eas­ily crushed the com­pe­ti­tion, and axed five more sec­onds off his pre­vi­ous record. In less than 48 hours, Corey Belle­more re­de­fined the beer mile.

L i ke a n ex per ienced r e cord-br e a ker, Belle­more has now spent the last year and a half toy­ing with his clos­est com­peti­tors while, ever so care­fully, con­stantly low­er­ing his world-lead­ing mark. Most re­cently, he dropped the world record to 4:33.6 in San Fran­cisco, last Oc­to­ber, as a part of the half­time en­ter­tain­ment at a pro soc­cer league match. Ap­pear­ances on tmz, ctv and Barstool Sports’ pop­u­lar pod­cast en­sued, as did fea­tures i n main­stream mag­a­zines like Men’s Health and Men’s Jour­nal. He be­came ad­mired, scru­ti­nized, and even meme-ified to the point where in­ter­net com­mu­ni­ties of run­ners, beer en­thu­si­asts, and ev­ery­one in be­tween praised his beer mile time enough to over­shadow his i mpres­sive r un­ning abil­ity. And like try­ing to chug an ipa and go for an hour-long easy run, that still does not sit well with the 23-year-old, in part be­cause Corey Belle­more doesn’t even drink when he’s not on the track.

“I en­joy the beer mile, and I like to do it be­tween sea­sons to keep things fun and light, but it is not my pri­or­ity,” Belle­more ad­mits. “I know that is how many peo­ple know who I am right now, and that drives me to be a bet­ter track ath­lete, so that those peo­ple know me for dif­fer­ent rea­sons in the fu­ture.”

To out­class him­self as a beer miler will be no easy feat, but Belle­more is well on his way. Be­fore the fame, he had al­ready rep­re­sented Canada in­ter­nat ion­ally on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, in events rang­ing from the 800m to cross-coun­try. In fact, when he broke the beer mile world record for the first time in the sum­mer of 2016, he was just a few weeks re­moved from his fourth in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion – he rep­re­sented Canada at the U-23 nacac Track and Field Cham­pi­onships in El-Sal­vador in the 800m. This sum­mer, he again rep­re­sented Canada at the fisu Univer­si­ade Sum­mer Games in Taipei, Tai­wan, in the 1,500m, as well as at the Fran­co­phone Games in Côte d’Ivoire in the 800m.

A well-es­tab­lished mid­dle-dis­tance run­ner, Belle­more show­cased his im­pres­sive range on the na­tional stage when he fin­ished 10th at the Cana­dian Cross-Coun­try Cham­pi­onships in Kingston, Ont., last Novem­ber, edg­ing out many na­tion­ally ranked 10k spe­cial­ists. He at­tributes his com­bi­na­tion of strength and power to his days as a swim­mer. “I swam with my high-school team, and it felt like a se­ri­ous club. We would ded­i­cate 14–16 hours per week to train­ing. We would be in the pool, but also do some land train­ing ses­sions, and we placed em­pha­sis on core strength,” he says. He and his twin brother, Justin, distin­guished them­selves as tal­ented ath­letes in the pool early on. “In Grade 9, we de­cided to start swim­ming, and we did fairly well right off the bat. My older sis­ter also swam, so we fol­lowed in her foot­steps,” says Belle­more.

Though Corey is no stranger to ath­letic suc­cess, the re­cent as­tro­nom­i­cal in­crease in at­ten­tion took some get­ting used to. “It is a bit weird,” he says, about now be­ing rec­og­nized as a niche celebrity in run­ning and beer-drink­ing cir­cles. “Some­times, peo­ple will in­tro­duce them­selves as fans and tell me they know me, and I don’t know them.” Such in­ter­ac­tions tend to leave the hum­ble and lev­el­headed Belle­more slightly un­com­fort­able. “I feel bad when I don’t know some­one who knows me. I don’t feel like I am en­ti­tled to that,” he says.

Be­fore Corey Belle­more be­came a house­hold name, an­other young Cana­dian dis­tance run­ner, Lewis Kent, had also risen to promi­nence thanks to his prow­ess in the beer mile. In 2015, and the then-run­ner for the West­ern Univer­sity Mus­tangs had a stran­gle­hold on the beer mile world record book, hav­ing low­ered Aus­tralian Josh Har­ris’ mark from 4:56 to 4:47 over the span of three months. He also won the 2015 Beer Mile Cham­pi­onships in Austin, Texas, in the process. A Brooks spon­sor­ship, and an ap­pear­ance on the Ellen De­generes Show talk show quickly en­sued. “The whole thing was pretty sur­real,” says Kent. “Shortly af­ter I had bro­ken the record for the first time, I signed with [sports agent] Kris My­chasiw. Then, things took off. Soon

“THE LONG- TERM GOAL WITH COREY HAS AL­WAYS BEEN TO CHASE AN OLYMPIC TEAM. I THINK IT IS JUST A MAT­TER OF TIME BE­FORE THOSE BEER MILE OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES COM­PLETELY TRANS­FER TO TRACK OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES.”

af­ter I signed, I went for an hour run, and came back to end­less so­cial me­dia no­ti­fi­ca­tions on my phone. That con­tin­ued for weeks.” Kent be­gan gar­ner­ing much more at­ten­tion at track meets. “I con­sid­ered my­self a mid­dle-of-the-pack guy in the On­tario rac­ing cir­cuit,” says Kent. “Af­ter I had been no­ticed for the beer mile, all eyes were on me at races. Here I was, rac­ing in the sec­ond of three heats of a 1,500m, and peo­ple were com­ing up and in­tro­duc­ing them­selves – shak­ing my hand.” This re­al­ity is now true for Belle­more. As did Kent, he had to get used to be­ing no­ticed and talked about. Un­for­tu­nately, not all ob­servers were quick to con­grat­u­late him for his ex­ploits. “Some­times, I hear of some peo­ple hav­ing an idea of me with­out ever meet­ing me,” af­firms Belle­more. “Some peo­ple say they hate me be­cause they hate the beer mile – I’ve been called a bad role model be­fore. I think if those peo­ple would get to know me for me they might have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion. The beer mile is just some­thing I do for fun and to get to see the world.”

The in­ter­ac­tions brought to him by his new­found fame, how­ever, are mostly pos­i­tive. Belle­more is an em­ployee at the Run­ning Fac­tory, a run­ning shoe and ap­parel store in Wind­sor, and of­ten gets no­ticed by cus­tomers. “Some­times, the beer mile is a con­ver­sa­tion starter,” Belle­more says. “Some clients will rec­og­nize me for it, and it will get us talk­ing about just run­ning in gen­eral – some­thing that I am more pas­sion­ate about. I love talk­ing one-on-one with the peo­ple who come in there. I want to hear their story – why they run. Their ac­com­plish­ments are al­ways hum­bling, in a way.” Belle­more re­calls be­ing asked by mul­ti­ple cus­tomers about why he has not yet com­pleted a marathon. “The marathon run­ners who come in get me think­ing ‘man, they have a one up on me.’ The talks with them are al­ways en­joy­able and mo­ti­vat­ing, too.”

Belle­more’s goals for now, how­ever, are fo­cused on the track and, more specif­i­cally, on the met­ric mile. “The 1,500m is where my fu­ture lies in track and field,” Belle­more says. “It’s also my new­found love. I have ramped up the train­ing a bit, be­cause I see more po­ten­tial to im­prove over 1,500m than 800m. I still think there is room to im­prove my short speed but, in the long run, I think the 1,500m will be my best dis­tance.” Belle­more holds cur­rent per­sonal best times of 1:47 in the 800m and 3:42 in the 1,500m.

Kent rec­og­nizes a dif­fer­ence be­tween him­self and Belle­more. “My 1,500m per­sonal best is 3:58. It’s cool for me to get that hype from the beer mile, but I don’t think I have Corey’s run­ning abil­ity.” Kent be­lieves that Belle­more has the po­ten­tial to shine as a run­ner, with beer or with­out. “With times like he al­ready has on the track, Corey has the chance to make it in the sport. Mean­while, he can use the beer mile to sep­a­rate him­self from the crowd, and to get help from spon­sors. If noth­ing else, it can help him fi­nan­cially and pro­long his op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue his dream. It could per­haps be the cat­a­lyst to his ca­reer as a track ath­lete.”

Kent’s agent Kris My­chasiw, who has also been work­ing with Belle­more, agrees with Kent. He ap­pre­ci­ates the scarcity of spon­sor­ship in the world of 1,500m run­ners. “The re­al­ity of the 1,500m is that if you don’t run 3:35, spon­sors will not be knock­ing at your door.” My­chasiw con­tends that Belle­more’s beer mile abil­ity rushed him into spon­sor­ship ter­ri­tory. “In strict terms of track times, we are in­vest­ing in the fu­ture with Corey. I have been in­volved in the sport for a while. Corey’s skill set lines up per­fectly with that of a great miler.” As does Kent, My­chasiw fore­sees great run­ning years ahead for Belle­more. “Sure, he gets gear from Adi­das and beer from Fly­ing Mon­key (his beer spon­sor) be­cause of his beer mile right now, but he’s still so young. The long-term goal with Corey has al­ways been to chase an Olympic team. I think it is just a

mat­ter of time be­fore those beer mile op­por­tu­ni­ties com­pletely trans­fer to track op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

The tran­si­tion to elite track has al­ready started, in part due to My­chasiw’s so­cial cap­i­tal in the run­ning world. The Mon­treal-based agent was the master­mind be­hind 2016 Olympian and 1,500m run­ner Charles Philib­ert-Thi­boutot’s ap­pear­ances in some of the best rac­ing fields in the world in the sum­mer of 2015, when he still only had a per­sonal best of 3:38. Philib­ert-Thi­boutot fin­ished his sum­mer sea­son with a shiny new PB of 3:34 and, soon, a lu­cra­tive Asics deal. My­chasiw is now work­ing to or­ches­trate op­por­tu­ni­ties for Belle­more to race in elite fields. Says My­chasiw, “Corey will be rac­ing in the Mon­treal In­door Grand Prix, this Fe­bru­ary. My goal for that race is to have a full field of guys chas­ing world [in­door cham­pi­onships] stan­dard. Corey’s mile time is 4:01, and with the right op­por­tu­nity, he will crush that.” Belle­more’s last track race was the Wind­sor Blue and Gold Open, in which he cruised to an 8:11 3,000m off of cross-coun­try train­ing, run­ning in­doors by him­self. “We just need to get Corey in a race in which he doesn’t have to lead. The times will take care of them­selves.”

In striv­ing for those faster times, Belle­more un­der­stands that a solid sup­port sys­tem is in­stru­men­tal. “My fam­ily has al­ways been sup­port­ive of my run­ning. My brother Justin, in par­tic­u­lar, has been my big­gest sup­porter. We go for runs to­gether, and he is a huge stu­dent of the sport. When­ever I fin­ish a work­out, I want to know his opin­ion of it. He will be the first one I text.”

For Justin Belle­more, it is sec­ond na­ture to sup­port Corey in­his jour­ney for two rea­sons. “We are twins, so we’re just used to tak­ing on things to­gether,” he states. “Plus, I am re­ally in­ter­ested in the re­search be­hind coach­ing meth­ods, so when Corey will tell me about a work­out, those times mean some­thing to me. Some­times, we will look at work­outs com­ing up on his plan and dis­cuss the lit­tle things, such as how to par­ti­tion ef­fort level over the next week, and the mean­ing and sig­nif­i­cance of each work­out. I think it is good to be able to talk back and forth and bounce ideas off of each other.”

Belle­more also calls upon the train­ing en­vi­ron­ment in Wind­sor as a main con­trib­u­tor to his de­vel­op­ment. “Part of the rea­son I stayed in Canada to go to univer­sity was be­cause I knew of Wind­sor’s rep­u­ta­tion – I knew of the coach.” The coach he speaks of is Den­nis Fairall – the Lancers’ head coach at the time – who slowly has carved his name in the short­list of leg­endary Cana­dian track and field builders. Though he no longer coaches with the Lancers, he has his hands full with Belle­more and an­other Cana­dian run­ning su­per­star: Melissa Bishop.

“Hav­ing a tight-knit, high-per­for­mance group so close to my house is awe­some,” ad­mits Belle­more, who was an at­tendee at Bishop’s re­cent nup­tials. “Bish lives right down the road from my house. The other day she saw me run in a bl­iz­zard, and sent me a text urg­ing me to keep push­ing through the bad weather. We’re pretty close.”

Bishop, a two-time Olympian, echoes his state­ment. “I’ve known Corey for years now, and we can talk and text about any­thing. We also mesh well on the track. He is a work­horse, and when the work­out starts, he dials in and is all busi­ness. I tend to work like that, too.”

In Belle­more, she sees in­valu­able qual­i­ties. “At the elite level, ev­ery­one has tal­ent. To sep­a­rate your­self from the rest, you need to be a gamer – you need to be able to con­trol your feel­ings when the pres­sure comes. Corey can do that. He pours out his heart into ev­ery­thing he does, and he al­ways shows up.” Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced an out­landish as­cen­sion un­der Fairall, Bishop is pleased to see Belle­more buy into the same pro­gram. “It’s nice to see some­one else put in a full ef­fort into the plan that Den­nis worked so hard to de­sign – and see it pay off.”

Belle­more ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity to learn from Bishop and Fairall. “Be­tween the two of them, they have an abun­dant amount of knowl­edge. They have done ev­ery­thing. They have been ev­ery­where I want to go.”

That place where he wants to go is Tokyo, and the 2020 Olympic Games. He has more than two years to re­fine his track pedi­gree and close the gaps be­tween his per­sonal bests and the Cana­dian Olympic track and field stan­dards. In 2016, those stan­dards over 800m and 1,500m were 1:45.80, and 3:36.00, re­spec­tively. “Mak­ing it to Tokyo is my huge goal. Lead­ing up to that, I just want to fo­cus on mak­ing more Cana­dian teams and low­er­ing my times.”

Mean­while, he will have to con­tinue deal­ing with be­ing the best beer miler in world his­tory, and all of the at­ten­tion that comes with the ti­tle. “Hon­estly, at the end of the day, I run track for me, and for the peo­ple who sup­port me. The crazi­ness and hype don’t re­ally make a dif­fer­ence. It does not change my goals.”

“I’VE KNOWN COREY FOR YEARS NOW, AND WE CAN TALK AND TEXT ABOUT ANY­THING. WE ALSO MESH WELL ON THE TRACK. HE IS A WORK­HORSE, AND WHEN THE WORK­OUT STARTS, HE DIALS IN AND IS ALL BUSI­NESS. I TEND TO WORK LIKE THAT, TOO.”

— MELISSA BISHOP

BE­LOW Corey Belle­more downs a beer pro­vided by his spon­sor Fly­ing Mon­key

ABOVE Corey Belle­more

ABOVE Belle­more rac­ing in the 2017 Cana­dian XC Cham­pi­onships in Kingston

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