English astronaut Tim Peake ran a marathon today that puts everyone with a “26.2” sticker to shame. It wasn’t his time of three hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds (although that alone is quite a feat) — it was the fact that he did it in space.
Peake ran the 2016 London Marathon on a treadmill on board the International Space Station. As tens of thousands of runners pounded the pavement in the streets of London, Peake went the distance strapped into a harness. He was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean by the time he crossed the “finish line,” and according to The Guardian, he had circled the Earth more than twice.
His time earned him a spot in the Guinness World Records for the fastest marathon in space. As crazy as this sounds, he isn’t the first person to run a marathon above the Earth’s atmosphere — that honor belongs to Sunita Williams, who ran the 2007 Boston Marathon in four hours, 24 minutes on the ISS.
“His latest achievement is surely his greatest,” Marco Frigatti, Guinness World Records’ head of records, says on their website. “Running the fastest marathon in space, on the only day off from his gruelling (sic) schedule is fantastic accomplishment. Tim is a true inspiration and someone we can all look up to. Literally.”
Video of Peake streamed back to Earth as he ran with a Union Jack flag behind him in a windowless room. A harness kept him on the treadmill, and an iPad app called RunSocial kept him digitally connected to the runners down below.
Running a marathon is tough enough, doing it while hurtling around the planet in the confines of the ISS is mindblowing. The micro-gravity on the ISS works a number on the human body, destroying muscles and even lengthening the spine. If Peake had been injured during the race, he wouldn’t have been able to continue his exercises. And when astronauts can’t exercise, the muscle mass they lose can make it hard for them to move when they come back down to Earth.
His team (who went by the uninspiring name “Team Astronaut”) also had two people in London shooting for a new record. Jonathan Scott and Libby Jackson from the UK Space Agency ran the marathon. Scott was attempting to get the world record for “Fastest Marathon by a Man Wearing a Replica Space Suit,” and Jackson was gunning for the female version. They completed the race, but didn’t get the Guinness Record.
There was, however, an astronaut suit record broken. Martin Hewlett won the record for fastest marathon dressed as an astronaut.
Of the 30 records set at the London Marathon, Peake’s feat was a clear standout. After he finished his space marathon, he grabbed the water pouch velcroed to the wall and gave a double thumbs up to the camera. Mission accomplished.