Fifth annual Eau Claire Snowshoe Beer Mile welcomes friends and family

Races provide ‘a lot of laughs and good memories’

Sam Johnson

More stories from Sam Johnson

The Tator
December 13, 2022

Photo by Taylor Wilkinson

The snowshoe beer mile race includes chugging a beer, running a quarter-mile and repeating that three times until a full mile is completed. Each runner’s lap is slower than the last and each chug becomes more forced.

For better or for worse, drinking is a part of Wisconsin’s culture. Many Americans drink, but no one does it as much as the state of Wisconsin. According to data collected by the CDC and analyzed by, more than 67 percent of Wisconsin adults drank alcohol in the month prior to data collection.

Drinking may be more commonly associated with meals and celebrations, but Eau Claire’s Hash House Harriers, a weekly running club, combine two of their passions, exercise and alcohol, to promote good health and camaraderie. Last Saturday, the Fox Run Tavern hosted the Harriers’ fifth annual Snowshoe Beer Mile. 

According to Runner’s World, seven runners created the beer mile in Ontario, Canada in 1989. The original race included chugging a beer, a quarter-mile run and repeating the course three times until a full mile is completed. 

As the event has grown in popularity, more people are trying to achieve greatness. James Nielsen, a two-time NCAA champion in the 5K, became a champion once again when he was the first athlete to break the five-minute barrier for the beer mile. 

Nielsen’s success went viral when ESPN and Bleacher Report covered the story. The Hash House Harriers caught wind of the record. 

Tim McManus, a third-grade teacher at Sherman Elementary School and one of the founders of Eau Claire’s Hash House Harriers, said the running club formed in 2014 and held their first beer mile that same year. 

“We started out running every Friday, meeting at a bar, running a lap (and) then having drinks afterward,” McManus said. “When we heard someone ran a beer mile in under five minutes, we thought that sounded fun. We like running and we like drinking, so we started our own.” 

The event on Saturday began and ended with smiles, laughs and cheering coming from the spectators. 

The competitors, on the other hand, were struggling. Each lap was slower than the last, and each chug became more forced. Occasionally, a beer made a reappearance part way through a lap and the racer, then slightly lighter, gained a burst of speed.

McManus said he has trained in years prior, but that has not always guaranteed success.

“In the past, we’ve practiced chugging beers and running around the backyard in snowshoes, but even with training really hard, we’ve still fallen apart. Other years, we’ve trained very little and done quite well,” McManus said. “The general rule is to practice chugging a beer and running or walking after that. If I had to give any advice, it’d be to show up and expect anything to happen.” 

Over time, McManus said the race was adapted to appeal to more people. Now there’s a “half,” where runners drink two beers and run one mile. The “open” allows athletes to pick their alcohol and runners can team up for a relay. 

The race may be unenjoyable, McManus said, but that is not what the event is about for him.

“You’re going to have races where you do really well, and races that won’t be your best one,” McManus said. “Obviously, we’re all competitive, but after we all cross (the finish line), it’s just a lot of laughs and good memories.” 

Johnson can be contacted at [email protected].