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Astronaut OK’d for on-time marathon

Space station astronaut Sunita Williams has been cleared for a 26.2-mile simulated run while in orbit on Monday — at the same time that the Boston Marathon is going on below.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

All systems are go for astronaut marathoner Suni Williams.

Williams, who qualified for the Boston Marathon but ended up being stuck at the international space station on race day, was cleared for a 26.2-mile simulated run at 10 a.m. ET on Monday — just when the real event will be leaving Hopkinton down on Earth.

That will allow the U.S. Navy commander to run at the same time as her sister, Dina Pandya, fellow astronaut Karen Nyberg and about 24,000 others who are expected to face heavy rain and head winds on their way to Boston’s Back Bay.

Williams, 41, will run the equivalent distance at the space station, in low orbit about 210 miles (335 kilometers) above Earth, while tethered to a treadmill by bungee cords so she doesn’t float away.

In the past, the space station’s treadmill has had its share of mechanical problems.

“I think both of us are as ready as we’re going to be,” Williams told The Associated Press on Friday in an interview, referring to the treadmill.

Williams qualified for the Boston race by finishing the Houston Marathon in 3 hours, 29 minutes, 57 seconds last year. But that was before she left on the shuttle Discovery in December to join the space station crew.

She was electronically issued a bib number for the Boston race (with the number 14,000) and has been running at least four times a week on the station's treadmill.

Due to the demands of Williams’ sleep and work schedule, NASA had considered having her run on Sunday evening. But agency spokeswoman Eldora Valentine confirmed on Friday that Williams will be able to run at the same time as the main event.

Williams' time will be recorded in the Boston Marathon's results booklet, said Jack Fleming, a spokesman for the Boston Athletic Association. "She will provide us with her time," he told However, she would not be listed in the official standings, because that would imply she outraced other entrants who were running under very different conditions, Fleming said.

Williams is a marathoner in more ways than one: She was originally slated to come back to Earth on the shuttle Endeavour in early July — but that trip is likely to be postponed for weeks due to snags encountered during the preparations for an earlier shuttle flight, now scheduled for no earlier than June. The delay puts Williams in line to break the U.S. endurance record for continuous time spent in space.

Williams also holds the female record for spacewalks, with 22 hours and 27 minutes spent in extravehicular activity.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and