Astronauts need to be in peak physical condition before zipping up to the International Space Station and living in the stressful environs of space.
European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake is scheduled to move into his new digs on the ISS on December 15. He won't let the small issue of being more than 200 miles above the Earth's surface stop him from participating in the London Marathon in April.
Peake will time his personal marathon for when the runners in London take off from the starting line on April 24. The astronaut will strap himself to a treadmill so he doesn't just float off with his legs flailing in the air. He likens the harness system to wearing a backpack. It applies downforce to keep exercising astronauts in contact with the treadmill.
"The thing I'm most looking forward to is that I can still interact with everybody down on Earth," Peake said.
"I'll be running it with the iPad and watching myself running through the streets of London whilst orbiting the Earth at 400 kilometers."
Peake ran the London Marathon back in 1999, finishing with a respectable 3:18:50 time. The winner of the men's race that year logged a 2:07:57 time. Peake isn't planning to break any records in space. "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," he said.
The treadmill that will host Peake's marathon is called the T2 Colbert (Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill). It was initially installed in the ISS in 2009. It has a vibration-damping system to keep it from shaking the space station when in use.
On marathon day, Peake will get a bigger workout than on a typical day. Astronauts usually exercise for a couple hours every day to maintain their physical conditioning in a weightless environment. Peak notes that the treadmill harness is "very uncomfortable," so simply staying connected to the treadmill for the amount of time it takes to run a marathon may end up being the biggest challenge.