Astronaut Will Race From Space
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