An Interview with Former Beer Mile World Record Holder James Nielsen

This Saturday the best beer milers in the world compete head to head at the Beer Mile World Classic on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. James Nielsen will be one of those toeing the line, beer in hand. Nielsen, who held the world record until it was broken (twice) August 7th, took a few minutes to answer some questions about the beer mile, this race, and what to expect when the gun sounds and the beer caps open this Saturday. You were the first person to go under 5:00 minutes in the beer mile and now Josh Harris and Lewis Kent have done the same while also lowering your world record. What impact do you think you breaking the sub-5 barrier had on their performances?

James Nielsen: I think my record had a big impact on these guys breaking 5. The beer milers of the world have been chasing the sub-5 minute barrier for decades and now that it’s been broken I wouldn’t be surprised to see many more in the coming years. A lot of the elite beer mile performances are solitary efforts. Do you think having some competition out there will change how you and the other competitors approach the race?

JN: I think competition will bring out the best in all of us. This is a race and when there are others next to you pushing you, it only makes you run faster. I imagine you’ll see some fast times on Saturday. You competed at a high level in running. Where would a win at the Beer Mile World Classic rank in your all-time accomplishments?

JN: That’s a tough one. Being the first to break 5 minutes certainly seems like the accomplishment I’m most well known for but running in the Cross Country World Championships and US Olympic Marathon Trials were certainly highlights as well. I had a couple NCAA Championships back in college as well.  I would put a Beer Mile World Classic win right up there with my proudest accomplishments. When you began your beer mile career did you ever think it would get you on ESPN? How has the press coverage impacted your daily life?

JN: I definitely didn’t expect this kind of coverage. To be honest, I never took it very serious. I always knew I was good at the beer mile and I’ve come close to breaking 5 many times. I decided to take my training seriously and it certainly paid off. The press coverage has been incredible and people keep telling me to get an agent.  I certainly haven’t been able to keep up with the interview requests. Will it take a world record to win Saturday and if so are you prepared for that?

JN: I do think it will take a world record to win. We’re all in great shape and ready to run fast. I know I can run faster than I did a year ago and I do expect to run faster than the world record.