Runners compete in a frosty 2024 Beer Mile
Participants in the Beer Mile competed this past Saturday, Jan. 27 for the title of champion in the yearly race.
This year’s Beer Mile was dubbed the Chu-go-saurus race, honoring the Iceworm Festival’s prehistoric atmosphere for this year’s theme. While most of Iceworm is geared toward children’s events, the Beer Mile caters to Cordova’s adult crowd. (Participants must be at least 21 years of age and able to provide their own beverages to compete.)
The race was started roughly six years ago by Micah Renfeldt, a beer enthusiast and now head brewer at Copper River Brewing. Renfeldt and his friend Stephen Phillips say they began it as a bet between the two of them and then decided to incorporate it as an official event during Iceworm, imagining that others would be interested to try their talents in the race as well. Renfledt says the Cordova Beer Mile is modeled after a similar event held in Denver.
“It’s a little more difficult than most people realize on their first go around,” Renfeldt said.
In addition to the Iceworm Beer Mile, the organizers host a summer time run in the same location for the solstice. As for winter time, Renfeldt says that many races have had to go forward even in rough weather.
“A lot of the winter beer miles are in the rain,” he said.
The race is held at Hartney Bay in the final stretch of asphalt road beginning at the bridge. The entire race is composed of four quarter-mile runs back and forth along the road during which runners must drink a full 12 ounce can of beer in between laps. Participants are required to drink from a standard can without alterations and demonstrate that their can is empty before beginning their next lap.
Weather for the race this year found the road in slick condition thanks to a light dusting of snow from the previous evening. Temperatures hovered at freezing. Winds that are common at Hartney Bay added to the chill factor.
Renfeldt and Phillips agreed that, despite the cold conditions, the weather has been much worse in the past for the race and both were happy to run without a forecast of rain. Regardless, Renfledt said, “It’s a wear grippers kind of race, you want some traction.”
As is often the case, the group started off strong and in hop-timistic spirits while enjoying their first beverage on the bridge and taking off down the runway. Many runners donned costumes or accessories related to this year’s Iceworm theme, such as dinosaur shirts and caveman-like furs.
By the end of the second lap the difficulty of chugging a carbonated brew and running in the cold was beginning to take its toll and smiles gave way to widened eyes and labored breath. As the race neared the end, more than half of participants had vomited, a foul which resulted in the penalty of having to run an extra lap. In the end, Shian Bradshaw emerged victorious as winner of the 2024 Beer Mile, coming in at just over nine minutes.
When asked what his favorite part of the Beer Mile is, Renfeldt said: “After I’m done with it.”
“There’s nothing like being four beers deep and full of endorphins knowing you don’t have to do it again for another year,” he added.
Though the race can be a spectacle of suffering it is also a place to witness enthusiastic support from friends and neighbors cheering on participants during each lap on the frigid sidelines. In this way the Beer Mile epitomizes the spirit of Iceworm in that it encourages folks to gather and celebrate community and light-hearted competition in the middle of winter’s dullest days.
This story was updated at 7:21 a.m. on Feb. 7 to clarify the headline quote attribution.