Off-world marathon record set by British astronaut
Running a marathon is difficult enough; 44-year-old British astronaut Tim Peake completed one on April 24—on a treadmill in microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) when he virtually ran in the London Marathon. As a bonus, he set a record for the fastest marathon completed in space—three hours, 35 minutes.
Peake, like the tens-of-thousands of runners in London, started the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) test of endurance at 10 a.m. BST (09:00 GMT). He used the orbiting outpost’s T2 treadmill, located in the Tranquility module, simulating gravity by strapping himself down with the Glenn Harness—a backpack-like device designed by the Glenn Research Center.
Peake was also the official starter for the race via a video message played at the starting line.
“I’m really excited to be able to join the runners on Earth from right here on board the space station,” Peake said. “Good luck to everybody running, and I hope to see you all at the finish line.”
The Earth-bound course runs along the River Thames. Thousands run the course each year. Peake himself competed there in 1999 when he crossed the finish line with a time of three hours, 18 minutes.
“The run went better than expected,” Peake wrote on his Principia blog. “I thought I’d stick to a steady 7.5 mph (12 km/h), but when I got to 10 miles (16 kilometers) I realized that my legs were feeling OK but my shoulders were beginning to hurt, so I needed to finish the run quicker than planned and running faster doesn’t seem to hurt the shoulders any more—in fact I think the longer stride made it less painful on the shoulders.”
Peake said he ran 8 mph (13 kph) for 10 miles (16 kilometers) and increased that to 8.6 mph (14 kph) for the last 6.2 miles (10 kilometers).
“It probably looked like I was having a strong run at the end, but the reality was that I couldn’t wait to get out that harness!” Peake said.
Peake said he was able to watch the marathon live on BBC the whole time and that it was an encouragement.
“I thought I would watch a movie (2001: A Space Odyssey was ready to go) or listen to my #Spacerocks playlist but in fact it was extremely motivating watching the live coverage of the event and hearing stories of some of the 33,000 people taking part,” Peake said.
The Expedition 47 Flight Engineer was able to compare his progress to the live event with an app called RunSocial. He said it gave him an excellent view of streets of London as he would see them if he were running the real marathon.
Peake’s run in space was only the second time an astronaut ran a marathon from orbit. On April 16, 2007, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams ran the Boston Marathon. Her time was four hours, 23 minutes.
Peake said he made sure he stayed hydrated while running as he said that was his biggest mistake in 1999. He said it hit him hard in 1999 at about 18 miles (29 kilometers) and foiled his plans for a sub-three-hour run. To prevent that from happening again, he had drinking water pouches lined up on Velcro strips on the panel above his head to make sure he drank at least one water pouch per hour.
“It was an incredible experience to take part in such a prestigious event whilst orbiting the planet on the International Space Station and I’m hugely grateful to everyone at the European Space Agency and NASA who made that happen,” Peake said.
Video courtesy of the European Space Agency
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor.