FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jack Fleming
NASA Astronaut Suni Williams to Run Boston Marathon in Space
Needham native will have earth support running on ground as she does
26.2-miles aboard the International Space Station.
Boston, Mass. - For the first time, a Boston Marathon qualifier will run
the race in space. NASA astronaut and Needham, MA, native Sunita (Suni)
Williams (41) is planning on running the 26.2 mile race on a treadmill
onboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, April 16, the same
day as the world's most prestigious marathon: the 111th Boston Marathon.
Williams will be supported on the actual marathon course from Hopkinton to
Boston by an Earth Support Unit, headed by her sister Dina Pandya, fellow
Naval Academy alumnus Ronnie Harris and up to a dozen of her friends, and
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg.
Today, the B.A.A. issued to Williams bib number 14,000, in honor of the
Expedition 14 which she is currently executing. Boston Marathon Race
Director McGillivray sent the bib electronically to NASA, who will forward
it to Williams.
Onboard ISS, more than 200 miles above earth, Williams will be harnessed to
a specially designed treadmill with bungee cords. A NASA engineer came up
with a treadmill vibration isolation system to lessen the pounding impact
on the space station, but this makes for an uncomfortable running
experience that pulls on the runner's hips and shoulders. She has had to
slowly work herself up from a couple of miles per run since she arrived at
the space station in December, to the marathon distance she is planning on
completing in April.
Williams grew up in Needham, MA, and graduated from Needham High School in
1983. Her parents Deepak and Bonnie Pandya reside in Falmouth, MA. Her
sister Dina lives in East Falmouth and is employed at the Woods Hole
Williams qualified for the 2007 Boston Marathon when she ran a 3:29:57
marathon in Houston, TX in 2006. This is her main motivation for running a
marathon in space. "I considered it a huge honor to qualify and I didn't
want my qualification to expire without giving it a shot," Williams said.
Running a marathon also gives her a goal for the physical activity that is
necessary to maintain bone and muscle density while in space. "In
microgravity, both of these things start to go away because we don't use
our legs to walk around and don't need the bones and muscles to hold us up
under the force of gravity," Williams said.
As a member of Expedition 14 and 15, she serves a six-month stint as a
flight engineer onboard ISS. She recently set the record for women's space
walking with more than 29 hours in space. Williams is set to return to
earth this summer.
Back on earth, Pandya and Harris are planning her support unit which will
consist of runners from Delaware, Maryland and Houston, TX. A spectator
support group will be within the 14th mile in Wellesley in honor of
Williams' Expedition 14.
Two NASA astronauts, Jeff Williams and Karen Nyberg, will be available
during marathon weekend in Boston to help educate the public about the
International Space Station and NASA in general. NASA will have a booth at
the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo at the Hynes Convention Center on
Friday, April 13, (noon to 6 p.m.), Saturday, April 14 (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
and Sunday, April 15 (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).