A former UC San Diego track star whose beer mile video went viral is launching what he hopes will become an annual event in San Francisco that becomes as iconic as the Carlsbad 5000.
“I will race and I will certainly be in shape to break the record,” Nielsen told Times of San Diego. “Last year I trained specifically to break 5 minutes. This year I’m going to make sure I’m in shape to run much faster.”
After clocking a solo 4:57 in April 2014, his video of the fete went viral, with 1.4 million views as of Tuesday. Another James — “Jimbo” Hansen — claimed a world record 4:56.25 last month, but “beer spillage” led to questions about his mark being accepted.
“I’m going to leave this decision to the guys at beermile.com,” Nielsen said of his rival’s would-be record. “Either way, it will be fun for everyone to see us race each other. I liked how he overlaid my video on top of his and let it appear as though we were going head to head.”The first Beer Mile World Classic will have brewer sponsors, he said. “We are in discussion with several, but nothing has been finalized.”
Nielsen, nicknamed “The Beast,” isn’t sure how many will enter.
“I’d be happy if it’s just a couple hundred the first year, but I only thought a couple hundred people would watch my world record video — and look what happened. It’s very possible this turns into a huge event.”
Prize money is planned, but Nielsen isn’t sure of the purse.
“We will also have prize money for the country that wins the team competition,” he said Tuesday via email.
Could his beer mile become as successful as the Carlsbad 5000, which a month ago marked its 30th year?
“I honestly believe it will,” said Nielsen, who is being helped by John Markell (who wrote the original beer mile rules) and Nick MacFalls, a local race director and the only full-time staffer in the effort.
Nielsen, an NCAA Div. III champion, competed for UCSD in 2000-2001 and still holds school records in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs.
“I keep in touch with most of my former teammates and coaches so they have been following the press from the beginning,” he said. “My very first beer mile was with them and they are certainly proud of my performance.”
How often does he visit San Diego?
“I head to San Diego about a half-dozen times a year,” he said. “It really is my home away from home. All of my siblings and I attended college in San Diego and three of us married fellow UCSD alumni.”
He said both of his sisters still live in San Diego — and two sisters of his wife, Mimi, also live in San Diego.
One of his sisters attended San Diego State, and “most of my college friends never left, so I have lots of close friends in San Diego. My wife and I also rent a beach house in Mission Beach every July for two weeks. It’s our time to reminisce and let our kids play in the same sand we use to run on.”
Meanwhile, registration has opened for the San Francisco beer mile, which will be contested on an asphalt “track” like a road mile.
National teams from Canada and Australia will be flying in for the event, organizers said. And Nielsen has assembled what his helpers call the “best field of beer milers in the history of the sport.”
They include former record-holders Josh “Harry” Harris and Canada’s longtime standard bearer, Jim Finlayson. Australia’s Hansen has also committed to taking part.
“Since Bay to Breakers (a mid-May road race) recently prohibited on-course drinking, the Beer Mile World Classic will be the only public race that allows – and, in fact, requires — on-course drinking,” said a news release.
A portion of the August event will leverage the social aspects of running and beer drinking to raise funds for local nonprofits.
“The Beer Mile Challenge is a great way to draw attention to our cause while having a good time, San Francisco style,” said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of WalkSF.
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