In August of 2016, unbeknownst to him, Corey Bellemore took an important step towards becoming a household name. The Tecumseh, Ont., resident and University of Windsor alumnus was unaware that his playful attempt at the beer mile – in which he ran alone, filmed by a friend – would earn him a plethora of fans, Twitter followers, and an eventual Adidas sponsorship. He also didn’t imagine that this world record-shattering performance of 4:39 would score him an invitation to the Beer Mile World Classic in London (not the one up the highway from his home, but across the Atlantic Ocean) – the very next day. Jetlagged and not fully recovered from his previous performance, he easily crushed the competition, and axed five more seconds off his previous record. In less than 48 hours, Corey Bellemore redefined the beer mile.
Like an experienced record-breaker, Bellemore has now spent the last year and a half toying with his closest competitors while, ever so carefully, constantly lowering his world-leading mark. Most recently, he dropped the world record to 4:33.6 in San Francisco, last October, as a part of the halftime entertainment at a pro soccer league match.
— CanadianRunning (@CanadianRunning) October 30, 2017
Appearances on TMZ, CTV and Barstool Sports’ popular podcast ensued, as did features in mainstream magazines like Men’s Health and Men’s Journal. He became admired, scrutinized, and even meme-ified to the point where internet communities of runners, beer enthusiasts, and everyone in between praised his beer mile time enough to overshadow his impressive running ability. And like trying to chug an IPA and go for an hour-long easy run, that still does not sit well with the 23-year-old, in part because Corey Bellemore doesn’t even drink when he’s not on the track.
“I enjoy the beer mile, and I like to do it between seasons to keep things fun and light, but it is not my priority,” Bellemore admits. “I know that is how many people know who I am right now, and that drives me to be a better track athlete, so that those people know me for different reasons in the future.”
“THE LONG-TERM GOAL WITH COREY HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO CHASE AN OLYMPIC TEAM. I THINK IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THOSE BEER MILE OPPORTUNITIES COMPLETELY TRANSFER TO TRACK OPPORTUNITIES.” – SPORTS AGENT KRIS MYCHASIW
To outclass himself as a beer miler will be no easy feat, but Bellemore is well on his way. Before the fame, he had already represented Canada internationally on multiple occasions, in events ranging from the 800m to cross-country. In fact, when he broke the beer mile world record for the first time in the summer of 2016, he was just a few weeks removed from his fourth international competition – he represented Canada at the U-23 NACAC Track and Field Championships in El-Salvador in the 800m. This summer, he again represented Canada at the FISU Universiade Summer Games in Taipei, Taiwan, in the 1,500m, as well as at the Francophone Games in Côte d’Ivoire in the 800m.
A well-established middle-distance runner, Bellemore showcased his impressive range on the national stage when he finished 10th at the Canadian Cross-Country Championships in Kingston, Ont., last November, edging out many nationally ranked 10k specialists. He attributes his combination of strength and power to his days as a swimmer. “I swam with my high-school team, and it felt like a serious club. We would dedicate 14–16 hours per week to training. We would be in the pool, but also do some land training sessions, and we placed emphasis on core strength,” he says. He and his twin brother, Justin, distinguished themselves as talented athletes in the pool early on. “In Grade 9, we decided to start swimming, and we did fairly well right off the bat. My older sister also swam, so we followed in her footsteps,” says Bellemore.
Though Corey is no stranger to athletic success, the recent astronomical increase in attention took some getting used to. “It is a bit weird,” he says, about now being recognized as a niche celebrity in running and beer-drinking circles. “Sometimes, people will introduce themselves as fans and tell me they know me, and I don’t know them.” Such interactions tend to leave the humble and levelheaded Bellemore slightly uncomfortable. “I feel bad when I don’t know someone who knows me. I don’t feel like I am entitled to that,” he says.
Before Corey Bellemore became a household name, another young Canadian distance runner, Lewis Kent, had also risen to prominence thanks to his prowess in the beer mile. In 2015, and the then-runner for the Western University Mustangs had a stranglehold on the beer mile world record book, having lowered Australian Josh Harris’ mark from 4:56 to 4:47 over the span of three months. He also won the 2015 Beer Mile Championships in Austin, Texas, in the process. A Brooks sponsorship, and an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show talk show quickly ensued. “The whole thing was pretty surreal,” says Kent. “Shortly after I had broken the record for the first time, I signed with [sports agent] Kris Mychasiw. Then, things took off. Soon after I signed, I went for an hour run, and came back to endless social media notifications on my phone. That continued for weeks.”
Kent began garnering much more attention at track meets. “I considered myself a middle-of-the-pack guy in the Ontario racing circuit,” says Kent. “After I had been noticed for the beer mile, all eyes were on me at races. Here I was, racing in the second of three heats of a 1,500m, and people were coming up and introducing themselves – shaking my hand.”
This reality is now true for Bellemore. As did Kent, he had to get used to being noticed and talked about. Unfortunately, not all observers were quick to congratulate him for his exploits. “Sometimes, I hear of some people having an idea of me without ever meeting me,” affirms Bellemore. “Some people say they hate me because they hate the beer mile – I’ve been called a bad role model before. I think if those people would get to know me for me they might have a different opinion. The beer mile is just something I do for fun and to get to see the world.”
The interactions brought to him by his newfound fame, however, are mostly positive. Bellemore is an employee at the Running Factory, a running shoe and apparel store in Windsor, and often gets noticed by customers. “Sometimes, the beer mile is a conversation starter,” Bellemore says. “Some clients will recognize me for it, and it will get us talking about just running in general – something that I am more passionate about. I love talking one-on-one with the people who come in there. I want to hear their story – why they run. Their accomplishments are always humbling, in a way.” Bellemore recalls being asked by multiple customers about why he has not yet completed a marathon. “The marathon runners who come in get me thinking ‘man, they have a one up on me.’ The talks with them are always enjoyable and motivating, too.”
Bellemore’s goals for now, however, are focused on the track and, more specifically, on the metric mile. “The 1,500m is where my future lies in track and field,” Bellemore says. “It’s also my newfound love. I have ramped up the training a bit, because I see more potential to improve over 1,500m than 800m. I still think there is room to improve my short speed but, in the long run, I think the 1,500m will be my best distance.” Bellemore holds current personal best times of 1:47 in the 800m and 3:42 in the 1,500m.
Kent recognizes a difference between himself and Bellemore. “My 1,500m personal best is 3:58. It’s cool for me to get that hype from the beer mile, but I don’t think I have Corey’s running ability.” Kent believes that Bellemore has the potential to shine as a runner, with beer or without. “With times like he already has on the track, Corey has the chance to make it in the sport. Meanwhile, he can use the beer mile to separate himself from the crowd, and to get help from sponsors. If nothing else, it can help him financially and prolong his opportunity to pursue his dream. It could perhaps be the catalyst to his career as a track athlete.” Kent’s agent Kris Mychasiw, who has also been working with Bellemore, agrees with Kent. He appreciates the scarcity of sponsorship in the world of 1,500m runners. “The reality of the 1,500m is that if you don’t run 3:35, sponsors will not be knocking at your door.” Mychasiw contends that Bellemore’s beer mile ability rushed him into sponsorship territory. “In strict terms of track times, we are investing in the future with Corey. I have been involved in the sport for a while. Corey’s skill set lines up perfectly with that of a great miler.” As does Kent, Mychasiw foresees great running years ahead for Bellemore. “Sure, he gets gear from Adidas and beer from Flying Monkey (his beer sponsor) because of his beer mile right now, but he’s still so young. The long-term goal with Corey has always been to chase an Olympic team. I think it is just a matter of time before those beer mile opportunities completely transfer to track opportunities.”
The transition to elite track has already started, in part due to Mychasiw’s social capital in the running world. The Montreal-based agent was the mastermind behind 2016 Olympian and 1,500m runner Charles Philibert-Thiboutot’s appearances in some of the best racing fields in the world in the summer of 2015, when he still only had a personal best of 3:38. Philibert-Thiboutot finished his summer season with a shiny new PB of 3:34 and, soon, a lucrative Asics deal. Mychasiw is now working to orchestrate opportunities for Bellemore to race in elite fields. Says Mychasiw, “Corey will be racing in the Montreal Indoor Grand Prix, this February. My goal for that race is to have a full field of guys chasing world [indoor championships] standard. Corey’s mile time is 4:01, and with the right opportunity, he will crush that.” (Editor’s note: Bellemore has since broken 4:00, clocking 3:57 for the mile in Boston.) Bellemore’s last track race (as of writing) was the Windsor Blue and Gold Open, in which he cruised to an 8:11 3,000m off of cross-country training, running indoors by himself. “We just need to get Corey in a race in which he doesn’t have to lead. The times will take care of themselves.”
In striving for those faster times, Bellemore understands that a solid support system is instrumental. “My family has always been supportive of my running. My brother Justin, in particular, has been my biggest supporter. We go for runs together, and he is a huge student of the sport. Whenever I finish a workout, I want to know his opinion of it. He will be the first one I text.”
For Justin Bellemore, it is second nature to support Corey in his journey for two reasons. “We are twins, so we’re just used to taking on things together,” he states. “Plus, I am really interested in the research behind coaching methods, so when Corey will tell me about a workout, those times mean something to me. Sometimes, we will look at workouts coming up on his plan and discuss the little things, such as how to partition effort level over the next week, and the meaning and significance of each workout. I think it is good to be able to talk back and forth and bounce ideas off of each other.”
Bellemore also calls upon the training environment in Windsor as a main contributor to his development. “Part of the reason I stayed in Canada to go to university was because I knew of Windsor’s reputation – I knew of the coach.” The coach he speaks of is Dennis Fairall – the Lancers’ head coach at the time – who slowly has carved his name in the shortlist of legendary Canadian track and field builders. Though he no longer coaches with the Lancers, he has his hands full with Bellemore and another Canadian running superstar: Melissa Bishop.
“Having a tight-knit, high-performance group so close to my house is awesome,” admits Bellemore, who was an attendee at Bishop’s recent nuptials. “Bish lives right down the road from my house. The other day she saw me run in a blizzard, and sent me a text urging me to keep pushing through the bad weather. We’re pretty close.”
“I’VE KNOWN COREY FOR YEARS NOW, AND WE CAN TALK AND TEXT ABOUT ANYTHING. WE ALSO MESH WELL ON THE TRACK. HE IS A WORKHORSE, AND WHEN THE WORKOUT STARTS, HE DIALS IN AND IS ALL BUSINESS. I TEND TO WORK LIKE THAT, TOO.” — MELISSA BISHOP
Bishop, a two-time Olympian, echoes his statement. “I’ve known Corey for years now, and we can talk and text about anything. We also mesh well on the track. He is a workhorse, and when the workout starts, he dials in and is all business. I tend to work like that, too.”
In Bellemore, she sees invaluable qualities. “At the elite level, everyone has talent. To separate yourself from the rest, you need to be a gamer – you need to be able to control your feelings when the pressure comes. Corey can do that. He pours out his heart into everything he does, and he always shows up.” Having experienced an outlandish ascension under Fairall, Bishop is pleased to see Bellemore buy into the same program. “It’s nice to see someone else put in a full effort into the plan that Dennis worked so hard to design – and see it pay off.”
Bellemore appreciates the opportunity to learn from Bishop and Fairall. “Between the two of them, they have an abundant amount of knowledge. They have done everything. They have been everywhere I want to go.”
That place where he wants to go is Tokyo, and the 2020 Olympic Games. He has more than two years to refine his track pedigree and close the gaps between his personal bests and the Canadian Olympic track and field standards. In 2016, those standards over 800m and 1,500m were 1:45.80, and 3:36.00, respectively. “Making it to Tokyo is my huge goal. Leading up to that, I just want to focus on making more Canadian teams and lowering my times.”
Bellemore’s original world record performance in the beer mile
Meanwhile, he will have to continue dealing with being the best beer miler in world history, and all of the attention that comes with the title. “Honestly, at the end of the day, I run track for me, and for the people who support me. The craziness and hype don’t really make a difference. It does not change my goals.”
This feature appears in the March & April 2018 issue of Canadian Running magazine.