British astronaut Tim Peake will attempt to run next year’s London Marathon in space, on a treadmill about 354 km above the Earth on the International Space Station (ISS).
Using a virtual-reality device that will feature High Definition footage of the actual course and other runners simulated digitally, Peake will feel like he is actually there, running past landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
“The London Marathon is a worldwide event. Let’s take it out of this world,” the 43-year-old said in a video posted on Friday by the YouTube account of the Virgin Money London Marathon, as the event is officially known.
As if the task of running a marathon isn’t hard enough, Peake will, of course, have to deal with the complications of zero gravity.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ll be facing is the harness system,” he said. “In microgravity I would float if I didn’t strap myself down to the treadmill, so I have to wear a harness system that’s a bit similar to a rucksack.
“I don’t think I’ll be setting any personal bests. I’ve set myself a goal of anywhere between 3:30 to 4 hours.
Peake, a former helicopter pilot who ran the London Marathon the usual way in 1999, will be running for the Prince’s Trust charity. His time in 1999 was three hours, 18 minutes, 50 seconds.
As soon as he got assigned to his mission to the ISS, he thought it would be great to run, he added. He is due to take off on December 15 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board a Soyuz rocket for a six-month mission to the ISS.
“Major Tim”, which is his actual rank, will be only the second Briton in space after Helen Sharman in 1991. He will be the first Brit on board the ISS.
He won’t be the first to run a marathon in space, however. Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams ran the Boston Marathon on board the ISS in 2007, completing it in four hours, 23 minutes. Running is common in space, where astronauts need to adhere to a strict exercise schedule to counter the weakening effects of zero-gravity on muscle strength and bone density.
The London Marathon, which will be held on April 24, was founded in 1981 and attracts over 30,000 participants each year.
The city has a more important connection with the 42.195 km (26 miles, 385 yards) regulation distance of the modern marathon. It was at the 1908 Olympic Games in London that 352m (385 yards) was added to the planned distance of 41.84 km (26 miles) so that the run could finish in front of the Royal Box at the White City Stadium. Since then, 42.195 km has been accepted as the standard distance.
(With inputs from ANI)