As the world’s best beer milers gathered at the Beer Mile World Classic in Chicago on July 1, renowned suspended US distance runner Shelby Houlihan made history by becoming the first woman to break the six-minute barrier in the beer mile event. Houlihan crossed the finish line in 5:43.81, setting a new world record. However, despite her achievement, she did not win the championship as she was not allowed to compete in the women’s championship section.
Shelby Houlihan, running her first race since her suspension, becomes the first woman to ever run a beer mile in under six minutes (5 minutes, 43 seconds) pic.twitter.com/mEd0x31s03
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 1, 2023
While still serving her four-year ban, the beer mile served as Houlihan’s comeback to competitive running. Although she remains ineligible to compete in USATF and World Athletics sanctioned events until 2025, the unaffiliated Beer Mile World Classic offered her a platform to race and drink beer.
Since the beer mile is an independent event, separate from the jurisdiction of USATF or World Athletics, Houlihan was allowed to participate despite her still serving a four-year ban from a positive test for nandrolone during an out-of-competition drug test conducted on Dec. 15, 2020. Houlihan has consistently maintained her innocence, attributing the positive test to a tainted pork burrito from a food truck. Despite an appeal against the ruling, she was unsuccessful in overturning the decision.
Race organizers clarified that while they allowed Houlihan to participate, she was not permitted to compete in the women’s championship section, expressing the need to develop a formal policy for athletes competing under suspension.
In the women’s championship race, Elizabeth Laseter from Austin, Texas, emerged as the champion, setting an official world record time of 6:03. Laseter’s record will be recognized over Houlihan’s as it was achieved in the sanctioned championship race.
According to beermile.com, the official website for the beer mile, they do not have specified regulations regarding drug testing or the requirement for all participants to provide proof of a clean test.
To successfully complete a beer mile according to the recognized rules of the Beer Mile World Classic, participants must complete four laps around a 400-meter track while consuming a beer before each lap. The beers must have a minimum volume of 340mL and an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of five percent or higher.