On Saturday May 6, the world awoke to the news of Eliud Kipchoge narrowly missing an audacious attempt to break the 2 hour marathon barrier on the infamous Monza F1 Track in Italy. But despite Kipchoge’s disappointment of missing his goal by only 24 seconds, he still claims the distinction of clocking the fastest (albeit unofficial) time ever for the distance. Word has it that after his marathon attempt, Kipchoge rushed back to his hotel room to anxiously await news of the 2017 Namban Rengo Beer Mile Race results, held in Yoyogi Park Tokyo, on Sunday May 7. This is what he would learn…
The English fielded a strong contingent of runners/beer drinkers, with the likes of Mike Trees (Ginga Kogen Beer), Tim Williams (Yona Yona), Bob Johnston (Budweiser), Matthew Holmes (Asahi Super Dry), Matthew Foord (Ginga Kogen Beer), and Anthony McCauley (Sapporo), however most of them failed to shine on the day; post-race excuses such as ‘my beer had too much gas in it’, ‘I’m still hungover from last night’ were heard. The Australians were poorly represented this year with only one entrant, Keren Miers (Kirin), who tried desperately to redeem his poor performance since his last Beer Mile attempt; he tells everyone post-race that he beat his last time by a ‘yuuuge amount’! The Americans looked promising on paper; Ken Pechter (Orion), David Rubenstein (Kirin), Glen Rubin (Kirin) and new club member Quint Baldwin (Suntory) were loud and proud before the race, sporting tight and light shirts and shorts. However all of them fizzed out along the way. The Irish – as charming as ever – fielded a team of three very pale runners/drinkers, their legs so white as to remind you to put your milk bottles out at night; Padraig MacColgain (Echigo Weizen), Rian O’Cuinneaguain (Sapporo) and Colin Hickey (Asahi), but no cigars for any of them on the day. It was Team Japan that hosted an outstanding collection of competitors, all of whom excelled in both the running and beer-drinking faculties; Yuichiro Mizukami (Bass bottles…!!), Taro Oguchi (Sapporo), Hajime Abe (Suntory) and Yuichi Kanamori (Asahi) filled most of the top finishing positions. Mizukami San – who drank like a fish and ran like a gazelle – showed samurai-like virtues of ‘gaman’, ‘konjo’ and ‘ki-ai’ from bottle to-bottle. He struggled at times with the bottle opener, but in the end he dug deep and pipped Matthew Foord from behind in the last 20 meters to take the coveted title in a 1 second thriller.
1st Place: Yuichiro Mizukami:- 7:07
2nd Place: Matthew Ford:- 7:08
3rd Place: Hajime Abe:- 7:35
4th Place: Yuichi Kanamori:- 7:40
The Namban Women featured the best of the best this year, performing with excellent running and drinking aptitude. Leading (and only) contenders were the very international drinking athletes of Mika Tokairin (Orion, Shingha, Bud, Tsingtao), Rieko Trees (Ginga Kogen and Orion) and Rie Onodera (Bud, Asahi, Kirin). In the end, Rieko Trees did what her husband couldn’t do and ran away with the competition in stunning fashion, and without chundering.
1st Place: Rieko Trees:- 9:52
2nd Place: Mika Tokairin:- 10:57
3rd Place: Rie Onodera:- 13:40
This category usually had a rich variety of skill, age and gender mix. Naoko Hanakawa and Yuri Kambara took a significant lead from the start, but were dramatically reeled in by Team Sase, who drank fearlessly and ran with heart. Congratulations to Kazuo Chiba, Rika Honma, Yuki Fukushima and Hiroshi Sase. It was the stuff of true champions.
1st Place: Team Sase:- 8:23
2nd Place: Naoko & Yuri:- 10:35
Like Kipchoge’s race in Monza, the Namban Beer Mile Race is an unofficial race; all physical achievements defy science, and cannot be replicated under normal race conditions.
Further, club rules strictly and specifically prohibit Namban Rengo Club Uniform Colors from being worn on Beer Mile race day; the reason is to ensure that there is no absolutely confusion about what Namban Rengo really is; we are not a drinking club with a running problem, we are a running club with a drinking problem…but only once a year!
Much thanks and appreciation to the race organizers: Taro Oguchi and Kazuo Chiba.
Race Report: Nick Coyle
Race Photographs: Stephen Lacey