YouTube video

James Nielsen holds school records at UC San Diego in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs, but no race has gotten more attention than his solo effort Sunday in San Francisco.

Likening himself to Roger Bannister and history’s first sub-4-minute miler, Nielsen downed four beers before four laps of the track to set a world record in the beer mile — the first under 5 minutes.

James Nielsen in video of his beer mile world record. Image via YouTube
James Nielsen in video of his beer mile world record. Image via YouTube

Timed by his wife, former UCSD track star Mimi Hodgins, Nielsen was clocked in 4 minutes, 57 seconds — 4:21 of which was running the mile and the rest stopping to empty cans of Budweisers.

His first words after breaking the record: “It’s really painful. Oh s–t.”

Nielsen’s 9-minute video had close to 690,000 views Wednesday. His feat was feted on Huffington Post, the Boston Globe website, Bleacher Report and USA Today among many others.

A resident of Marin County with his wife and two children, the 34-year-old Nielsen said he had been training for the beer mile record for a year. He said he studied anatomy and practiced quaffing a can of beer — sometimes as fast as 4 seconds.

His academic credits are impressive as well. Nielsen was named the 2000-2001 California Collegiate Athletic Association Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year after a career that included three All-America selections, three academic All-America Awards and two NCAA Division III Championships in track and field.

Nielsen had a 3.86 grade-point average as an electrical engineering major, according to The Guardian student newspaper.

“As a sophomore, Nielsen began working with a prominent person in that field and contributed to his projects. In his senior season, he was a Rhodes Scholar District VIII finalist. He also received the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete Award that year,” the paper said.

In his junior season, Nielsen repeated as CCAA cross-country champion and as NCAA Division III 5,000-meter track champion.

Nielsen was reported to have entered the doctorate program at Stanford University.

His best times at UCSD were 3:50.3 for 1500 meters (about 4:08 for the mile, 14:21.15 for 5K and 29:52.97 for 10K.

In a report, Nielsen is congratulated by two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds — who himself had hopes of being the first sub-5 beer miler.


Incredible beer splits!” Symmonds told Flotrack. “Huge congrats to him. I guess I better start training.”

The beer mile requires a runner to drink a can of beer every lap on a 400-meter track for a mile. The beer must be 5.0 or higher in alcohol concentration and consumed from a 12-ounce can that has not been altered.

“Four beers consumed for four laps,” Flotrack said. “No vomiting permitted.”

Nielsen’s fastest chug took 7 seconds. The others took 8, 12 and 9 seconds. He smashed the listed world record of 5:04.9 by Australia’s Josh “Harry” Harris last year in Melbourne. In 2012 Harris ran 4:58 while drinking four cups of chocolate milk.

Nielsen, whose nickname is “The Beast,” is a founder of California Runners.

“Born and raised in the Bay Area, James started running in seventh grade when two of his teachers started a middle school cross country team,” his bio says.