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Sunita set for Boston space marathon

india Updated: Apr 16, 2007 11:49 IST
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Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams is all set to join the Boston Marathon in space on Monday, where she will circle the Earth at least twice running on a treadmill.

Williams, an accomplished marathoner, will be running as fast as eight mph during the 42.16-kilometres simulated run at 7:30 pm IST on Monday, the same time the real event will be starting at Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

The Boston Athletic Association has issued bib number 14,000 for Sunita's use electronically through NASA.
Williams hopes her unique run, where she will be flying more than five miles each second, will serve as an inspiration for young people to take up physical exercise.

"I encourage kids to start making physical fitness part of their daily lives," Williams said. "I think a big goal like a marathon will 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," she said.

Sunita has been training for the marathon for months while serving a six-month stint as a flight engineer on board the International Space Station (ISS). She runs at least four times a week, 2 longer runs and 2 shorter runs.
She qualified for the marathon when she ran a 3:29:57 in the Houston Marathon last year. (MORE)

Sunita's biggest challenge running in space will be staying harnessed to a specially designed treadmill with bungee cords. Williams says running on the TVIS (Treadmill Vibration Isolation System) can sometimes be uncomfortable.

The machinery puts a strain on the runner's hips and shoulders. Race organisers 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 of the Boston Athletic Association.

Meanwhile, besides getting ready for the race, Sunita joins Expedition 15 from Expedition 14, while spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi leaves for home on April 20 with Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin.

Lopez-Alegria, who came to the station last September, continuously sets new US single spaceflight duration records. Williams is likely to break Lopez-Alegria's record with her return tentatively planned for August after serving as an E15 crew member for the early part of that increment.

Science continues aboard the ISS as crew members are working on experiments to understand the potential for decompression sickness among space walkers and to understand the effect of long-duration spaceflight on a crew member's ability to pilot a spacecraft.

Among experiments getting crew attention were bio-emulsion, a Russian effort to develop technology to produce microorganisms safely for bacterial, fermental and medical preparations. Tyurin worked with that experiment on Tuesday.