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Penn Stater Sets World Record in Beer Mile Championships

It was former President Graham Spanier who used to say “Here at Penn State, we are always thinking big.” Be it in philanthropy, business, research, arts, or any important field, Penn State’s 631,000 living alumni are making big impacts in our communities and throughout the world, with remarkable achievements known far and wide.

Elizabeth Herndon is one such alumna.

The 29-year-old graduated from Penn State in 2012 with a Ph.d in the geosciences and now has an accolade that any true Penn Stater should respect. On Wednesday, Herndon set the women’s world record at the Beer Mile World Championships in Austin, Texas with a time of 6:17.76.

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It’s truly a test of digestive fortitude and physical endurance — one that a full-time Penn State degree would naturally prepare anyone for. For the uninitiated, a beer mile combines the skills of running and speed drinking into a beautiful sport. Each competitor must consume four beers while running a mile, which are tackled in 1/4 mile increments. Each beer must be at least 5% ABV, and anyone who pukes or discards a non-empty beer before the end of the race must run a penalty lap. The Beer Mile World Championships are held each year for runners who win at any of the other local Beer Mile qualifiers. World records, race statistics, and other Beer Mile minutiae are logged at BeerMile.com, the self-proclaimed official source for Beer Mile news.

Herndon is not new to the Beer Mile circuit; her previous best time of 6:48 was good for fourth in the world. The former Penn State cross-country runner bounced between third and fourth place until the third lap when she pulled out ahead, crushed her fourth and final beer, and crossed the finish line without another runner in the frame, shattering the previous world record by 10.84 seconds. Herndon’s heroic performance is worth watching below — make sure your volume is up, as the color commentary guys are better than anyone on the Big Ten Network.

Herndon will take home a $5,000 purse for her record-setting championship. She told USA Today after the race that her training strategy focused on the running aspect rather than the chugging, as it would be “more detrimental to my health than it would be beneficial.”

Ultimately, after experimenting various beers with her husband, Herndon settled on the Fat Tire from the New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado — in cans, of course, to save time. The amber ale comes in at a 5.2% ABV — just above the race limit — and goes down smooth for a craft beer.

“I think it was definitely the run more than the beer chugging,” she told Runners World. “My [chugging] technique flew out the window. I didn’t breathe enough to chug like I had practiced…I think I can go a sub-6 with a little better chugging than I did today.”

Currently an assistant professor of geology at Kent State University, Herndon spent nearly five and a half years as a graduate student at Penn State and was active in the research community.

Her victory night had a Bubba Watson element of modesty to it. How did she celebrate?

“Going out and getting a slice of pizza,” she said. “Because I hadn’t eaten in nine hours.”

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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