Astronaut runs London marathon aboard space station

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LONDON — British astronaut Tim Peake provided the countdown for the 36th London Marathon on Sunday before running his own virtual version of the race on a treadmill hundreds of miles above the Earth.

A recorded message in which Peake wished the competitors luck was played on big screens before the runners set off in London and the 44-year-old astronaut began his own run on board the International Space Station.

Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge won the men’s race, completing the course in a record time of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 5 seconds to triumph at the event for the second year in a row.

Fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong won the women’s event with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 58 seconds, after suffering a fall at the 21-mile mark.

Marathon in a harness

Peake, the first British European Space Agency astronaut, ran the race in 1999, completing the 26.2-mile (42.16-kilometer) course in a time of 3 hours and 18 minutes, according to event organizers.

His new race is vastly different. Peake is wearing a harness that straps him to the space station’s treadmill while watching a virtual-reality video simulating the marathon course.

The video is populated with avatars depicting actual London Marathon runners who are using the Run Social app as they race.

Peake is aiming to complete the race in a time of 4 to 4½ hours, marathon organizers said. He had completed the first 17 miles in 2 hours, 27 minutes, race officials tweeted.

His physiology is being monitored to assess how his body fares with the exertion in orbit.

Two of his colleagues from the European Space Agency are also running in London in replica space suits, marathon organizers said.

Not the first

Peake, who arrived at the International Space Station in December, is not the first astronaut to run a marathon in space.

NASA’s Sunita Williams ran on the space station treadmill during the Boston Marathon in 2007, completing the course in 4 hours and 24 minutes.

London organizers said record numbers are expected this year, with more than 40,000 runners registered and more than 39,000 predicted to take part.

This year’s event will see the millionth runner in the history of the annual London race cross the finish line, organizers said.