British ESA astronaut to run Virgin Money London marathon in space

04 December 2015

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake will become the first man to run a marathon in space when he takes on the challenge of the Digital Virgin Money London Marathon on the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday 24 April.

It will be another extraordinary first for Peake who is the first Briton to be selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for a mission to the ISS and the first British man in space. His mission launches from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday 15 December and he is due to return to Earth on 5 June 2016.

Peake, who is running to raise awareness for The Prince’s Trust, will run the 26.2 miles on a treadmill as the ISS orbits the earth. He will start at 10:00 GMT on Sunday 24 April, the same time that the 37,000+ runners set off from Greenwich to cover the famous marathon distance on Earth.

To combat weightlessness, Peake will wear a harness that tethers him to the treadmill as he runs, while watching the HD video of the iconic London course on the big screen in front of the treadmill. The tension on the harness dictates the speed that he can run.

Peake has been a keen runner since his teenage years and ran the London Marathon on Earth in 1999, finishing in 3:18.50. He is not expecting to beat that time on 24 April as his medical team at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany will be monitoring his preparations and run carefully to ensure he is at optimum fitness for his return to earth 8 weeks later.

As soon as I got assigned to my mission to the International Space Station, I thought wouldn’t it be great to run the Digital Virgin Money London Marathon from onboard the ISS,

said Peake.

“The London Marathon is a worldwide event. Let’s take it out of this world.

“The thing I’m most looking forward to is that I can still interact with everybody down on Earth. I’ll be running it with the iPad and watching myself running through the streets of London whilst orbiting the Earth at 400km above the surface and going 27,000km per hour.

“One of the biggest challenges I’ll be facing is the harness system. 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. It has a waistbelt and shoulder straps. That has to provide quite a bit of downforce to get my body onto the treadmill so after about 40 minutes, that gets very uncomfortable. 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.

“I am running in space to raise awareness of The Prince’s Trust, which has a team running on the ground – Team Astronaut – while I’m running on the ISS.”

Maintaining fitness during the six month missions is extremely important for the astronauts due to the negative effects on bone density and muscles caused by prolonged periods in microgravity.

Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: “Tim’s mission will undoubtedly inspire a generation of children to explore science and space. We hope that this extraordinary marathon run in space will also inspire that generation to run.”

The Digital Virgin Money London Marathon is an innovative interactive virtual-reality experience, developed by London Marathon Events in partnership with RunSocial, the digital fitness technology pioneers. It offers runners anywhere in the world – and space – the opportunity to download and experience the entire world-famous Virgin Money London Marathon course.

The route was filmed in HD video during the 2013 and 2014 Virgin Money London Marathons and has been converted into an interactive ‘mixed reality’ video, which runners watch as they run on a treadmill. The video playback matches the running speed and runners can also see, and run with, virtual reality avatars of runners from around the world who are also using the download. A special avatar has been created for Peake, showing the astronaut running in his ESA flight suit.

The Digital Virgin Money London Marathon is available to purchase now for £4.99 from the free RunSocial app. A link to a free download will be sent to all 247,069 people who applied for a place in the 2016 event on Earth.