Astro­naut Will Race From Space

The Washington Post Sunday - - Outdoors -

I’m not gen­er­ally a fan of those proxy marathon runs, par­tic­u­larly when they come from a pro­gram in des­per­ate need of pub­lic re­la­tions re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

But this one about NASA astro­naut Suni Wil­liams run­ning the Bos­ton Marathon on April 16 while or­bit­ing 200 miles above earth in the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion seems a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

Wil­liams will have an “ Earth Sup­port Sys­tem,” led by Lt. Cmdr. Ron­nie Har­ris, 42, her Naval Academy class­mate of 1987. Har­ris, for­merly one of the na­tion’s top 5,000- me­ter run­ners, has a marathon best of 2 hours 56 min­utes.

“ Suni chal­lenged ev­ery­one to do some­thing phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing while she’s in space,” said Har­ris, who runs lo­cally in An­napo­lis and with the Re­ston Run­ners. “ We thought about what we could do, and go­ing for a per­sonal best at Bos­ton seemed right. We’re run­ning it for her.”

In­cluded in the sup­port group are Wil­liams’s sis­ter and par­ents, who will host a din­ner at their home in Mas­sachusetts the night be­fore the marathon. The group also is co­or­di­nat­ing spec­ta­tor sup­port near Mile 14 in honor of Ex­pe­di­tion 14 to the space sta­tion, where Wil­liams is serv­ing a six- month stint as flight en­gi­neer. Wil­liams qual­i­fied by run­ning 3: 29: 57 last year in Hous­ton.

“ I didn’t want my qual­i­fi­ca­tion to ex­pire with­out giv­ing it a shot,” Wil­liams said. She will run in zero grav­ity on a spe­cially de­signed tread­mill with a bungee- cord har­ness to keep her “ grounded.”

“ It’s not too un­com­fort­able, and she can run pretty nat­u­rally up there,” Har­ris said. But Wil­liams needed to work up from runs of just two miles when she ar­rived at the space sta­tion in De­cem­ber; Har­ris said her long­est run so far is 15 miles.

“ She ran and swam Di­vi­sion I at the Naval Academy, so she’s al­ways been tough,” Har­ris said. “ I think she’ll make it.” K BACK ON EARTH: Athens marathon bronze medal­ist and Amer­i­can record holder Deena Kas­tor, 34, heads into her first Bos­ton as the fa­vorite in a strong field. “ My work is go­ing to be cut out for me,” Kas­tor said on a con­fer­ence call last week. K OOPS: The Na­tional Half Marathon last Satur­day was .24 of a mile too long; ad­justed times are at www. na­tional­marathon. com. K CHEAPER BY THE MILE: The Marine Corps Marathon has re­duced the on­line fee for the Oct. 28, 2007, event to $ 80; reg­is­tra­tion for the na­tion’s fourth- largest marathon be­gins May 9 at noon at www. marine­marathon. com.

— Jim Hage hagej@ wash­post. com

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