Do you think running a marathon is a problem? Imagine British astronaut Tim Pick, who not only ran this weekend 26.2 miles of the London Marathon, but also made a grueling feat associated with a treadmill 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.
Piqué, the first British astronaut of ESA (and the 7th astronaut of British origin), who was launched into space, has been aboard the International Space Station since December and has been planning an exhausting marathon for some time.
"I am very happy that this is happening in the mission later, so I had enough time to get used to the T2 treadmill," BBC News told Peak shortly before the event on Sunday.
Located in the station's Tranquility module, the T1 high-tech treadmill has a lot in common with the gizmos in your gym, with the exception of one extreme innovation. Since the equipment is operated in microgravity, to simulate the gravity of the Earth (keeping astronauts in contact with the machine during operation), elastic straps are put on the shoulders and waist to create sufficient pressure when running.
You might think that Piquet might have been easier to run due to the lack of gravity, compared to your colleagues in London, who had to overcome 26.2 miles with 1g of gravity, but think again. “One of the biggest problems is the insurance system. Obviously, my body weight must be firmly attached to the treadmill with this harness, which causes friction on the shoulders and around the waist,” he said.
The treadmill on the ISS is not just there for entertainment and marathon events. The daily routine of an astronaut includes classes on T1 every day for about 2 hours. Without gravity, the human body degrades in many ways during long space flights. In order to minimize the damage caused by muscle atrophy and bone thinning, a strict mode of sports load for the crew has been introduced.
As a former officer of the British army (and the current army of reservists), Piquet is no stranger to physical exertion. But in this case, he really went further and beyond the call of duty: he finished the London Marathon in 3 hours and 35 minutes. In 1999, he ran a marathon (on land) in 3 hours and 18 minutes, so he was not far from his previous result. In order to avoid any medical or unforeseen health problems that could interfere with his expedition to the ISS, the medical team of the space station advised him not to try to beat his previous record.
As an added bonus, Piquet also broke the world record. "His latest achievement is by far the biggest - a quick run on a marathon in space during a single day off from his exhausting schedule is a fantastic achievement," said Marco Frigatt, head of Guinness World Records. "Tim is a true inspiration and one we can all be on. Literally."
The previous record for the space marathon was made by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who ran the Boston Marathon on the ISS in 2007, completing it within 4 hours and 24 minutes. According to SPACE.com, Williams ran 26 miles on the original station treadmill, which has since been thrown overboard.
Interestingly, while Piquet ran for 3 hours and 35 minutes, the space station, which rotates around the Earth at a speed of about 17,100 miles per hour, covered a distance of more than 60,000 miles. Thus, although Piquet ran 26.2 miles on a treadmill in space, the treadmill flew 60,000 miles! Now it's an extraordinary marathon.