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Race From Space Coincides with Race on Earth


Race From Space Coincides with Race on Earth


210 miles above Earth, Expedition 15 crew member Sunita Williams 
attempted something no other astronaut has ever done. She ran the Boston 
Marathon while in orbit.

Williams runs the Boston Marathon Image to right: Flight Engineer Suni 
Williams is running the Boston Marathon on a station treadmill. Credit: 
Williams circled Earth at least twice, running as fast as eight mph but 
flying more than five miles each second, as she completed the Boston 
Marathon on a station treadmill. Her unofficial completion time was four 
hours and 24 minutes as she completed the race at 2:24 p.m. EDT.

Williams ran under better weather conditions than her Boston 
counterparts. In Boston, it was 48 degrees with some rain, mist and wind 
gusts of 28 mph while station weather was 78 degrees with no wind or 
rain with 50% humidity.

The Boston Athletic Association had issued Williams bib number 14,000. 
The bib had been sent electronically to NASA, which had forwarded it to 
Williams. She’s a Needham, Mass., native and says her reason for running 
the marathon is simple. “I would like to encourage kids to start making 
physical fitness part of their daily lives. I thought a big goal like a 
marathon would help get this message out there.”

Regular exercise is essential to maintaining bone density while in space 
for astronauts. “In microgravity, both of these things start to go away 
because we don’t use our legs to walk around and don’t need the bones 
and muscles to hold us up under the force of gravity,” Williams said.

No one knows that better than Steve Hart. For two years, he’s been 
Williams’ flight surgeon. “There are specific challenges to staying 
healthy while in space. Sunita wants to make fitness the hallmark of her 
expedition stay. She wants to educate and motivate others about being 
physically fit in general.”

Williams, an accomplished marathoner, has been training for the marathon 
for months while serving a six-month stint as a flight engineer on board 
the ISS. She runs at least four times a week, 2 longer runs and 2 
shorter runs.

Williams qualified for the marathon when she ran a 3:29:57 in the 
Houston Marathon last year. Her biggest challenge running in space will 
be staying harnessed to a specially designed treadmill with bungee 
cords. Williams says running on the TVIS which stands for Treadmill 
Vibration Isolation System can sometimes be uncomfortable. The machinery 
puts a strain on the runner's hips and shoulders.

Mitzi Laughlin is an Astronaut Strength, Conditioning and Rehabilitation 
coach at Johnson Space Center. She’s been involved in planning Williams' 
rigorous exercise routine for a year and a half. “We’ve done a lot more 
TVIS work than we would normally prescribe for any astronaut. Suni has a 
superb fitness level. She’s dedicated and perhaps one of our best runners.”

Here on Earth, Williams has a huge support network. Fellow NASA 
astronaut, Karen Nyberg, Williams’ sister Dina Pandya, and long-time 
friend Ronnie Harris will be among the 24,000 other runners 
participating in the marathon. Harris met Williams during their days 
together at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. “Anything regarding 
Boston makes Suni light up. Her running passion is manifested in the 
best marathon in the world, which happens to be her home town. You need 
to experience the Boston Marathon to understand why she is gonna do it 
in orbit.”

Race organizers say this will be their first satellite venture, and they 
are thrilled about it. "Suni running 26.2 miles in space on Patriots' 
Day is really a tribute to the thousands of marathoners who are running 
here on Earth. She is pioneering new frontiers in the running world,” 
said Jack Fleming, Boston Athletic Association.

+ Read press release 

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