Beer Mile champion Batten returns to Austin for full-blown marathon

The last time Caitlin Batten raced in Austin, she drank a few beers and won a world championship.

That happened in 2016, when Batten topped the women’s field at the third annual FloTrack Beer Mile World Championship, setting a personal-best “beer mile time” of 6 minutes, 29 seconds.

On Sunday, Batten will return to the city to compete in the Austin Marathon, adding 25.2 miles to her racing distance, and if her recent performance trend in marathons holds, she’s likely to be in the lead pack.

Beer Mile competitions involve covering that distance while stopping to chug a full bottle of beer at each quarter-mile. On Sunday, though, Batten will stick to regular sports drinks — at least until she finishes the winding race that starts and finishes in downtown Austin.

Beer miles aside, Batten, a 34-year-old physical therapist from North Charleston, S.C., is a fierce competitor and a serious marathoner. A relative latecomer to running, Batten did not compete in the sport in high school or college.

“A friend convinced me to jump into a 5K in 2007, and right after that, I started training 60 miles a week,” she said. “I’ve always been very competitive.”

A year after that inaugural 5-kilometer run, Batten ran her first marathon, clocking a time of 3 hours, 18 minutes, 54 seconds at the Kiawah Island event. She went on to win the race three straight times in 2013-15, knocking her finishing time down along the way to a personal best of 2:49:03, the former South Carolina state record for women. That time falls close behind the 2:48:17 finish of reigning Austin Marathon women’s champ Allison Macsas.

Comparable times aside, Batten knows anything can happen in a marathon.

Last October at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Batten tried out some new shoes. They didn’t work out, and she ended up hobbling the final 10 miles. Still, she clocked a very respectable 2:51:41.

“The marathon is a very tricky race to get right,” said Batten, whose coach is her husband, Irv, race director of the Cooper River Bridge Run in the Charleston area — the third-largest 10K in the country. “For one thing, you can’t run multiple marathons back to back. So you really only have one shot at any given time. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

Batten has been to Austin twice for the Beer Mile and said: “I really love the city. That’s what got me interested in the (Austin Marathon) initially.

“I know that the Austin course is pretty hilly. There’s only one hill where I live — I do my hill workouts on the Cooper River Bridge. My goal in Austin is just to run a good a time. I’m just happy to participate and hang out in Austin.”

This year, Batten and other elite runners will be chasing a total prize purse of $15,000 at the Austin Marathon. The larger purse will mean a deeper field for both the men’s and women’s races.

In addition to Macsas, Batten will square off against D’Ann Arthur, a former cross-country standout at Trinity University in San Antonio who clocked a 2:46:50 at the 2016 Orange County Marathon.

Regardless of her result, though, Batten has a pretty good idea about what she’ll do once the race concludes Sunday.

“I will definitely drink a beer after I cross the finish line,” she said. “Probably more than one.”

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