A recent announcement by Runners Drink Beer of their upcoming Beer Mile on August 5th brought back memories of the Chunder Runs I used to run in back in my collegiate cross-country days. Chunder is Australian slang for barf, and the legend was that the original Chunder Runs started in Australia and consisted of about 10 miles and several beers. Each runner had to carry a bucket and anything they could hold down was supposed to expelled into the bucket and carried all the way to the finish line.
The Washington University Cross-Country Team Chunder Run, held around midnight once the season was over, didn’t involve any buckets, but was five miles long. A twelve ounce beer was consumed at the start, and then after each mile, and once you crossed the finish line, you had to finish another 12 ounce beer before your race was officially over, so a six-pack was consumed over the course of the five mile run. With that many beers over five miles, some pretty serious projectile vomiting was basically unavoidable. And running flat out, as fast as I could go, with my whole body numb and my mind hazy from the alcohol is pretty surreal, not to mention a bit dangerous. I am not kidding when I tell you that winning the 1985 Washington University Cross-Country Chunder Run is one of my proudest running accomplishments.
I later learned managing a track and field listserver in the mid-90’s that “Chunder Runs” were pretty common with distance runners all over the world. Someone brought up the topic during the off-season, and all of sudden the listserver was full of posts describing various Chunder Runs held all over the world, mostly “announced” through word of mouth between training partners. I even found an “official” site of Beer Mile rules and records. Clearly, these beer races have resonated with runners all over the world. for decades.
As I am prone to seek deep significance in juvenile activities, I couldn’t help ask myself “Why so many Chunder Runs?” I believe its because runners are constantly pushing limits, managing physical discomfort in their bodies, and finding enjoyment doing something most people find dreadful. That basically describes a Chunder Run, which explains why they are an enduring, if underground, part of running culture.