Steamboat Springs When Steve Swanson needs to either grab or pass the baton in the Wild West Relay race this weekend in Colorado, things could get complicated.
That's because Swanson will be running on a treadmill more than 200 miles above the Earth and the handoffs to and from his fellow runners will have to be done via a very long distance call.
On the plus side, the Steamboat Springs astronaut won't have to worry about the weather or any steep hills when he runs his portions of the route aboard the International Space Station.
"Everybody is ready to go and to support him up in space with this event," Suni Williams, a fellow astronaut who will run on Swanson's team here on Earth, recently told Space Station Live in an interview.
Swanson and the five other runners on his team, Friday and Saturday, each will run about 33 miles during the 200-mile run from Fort Collins to Steamboat Ski Area.
"It's a pretty rigorous run," Williams said.
Swanson has run the relay on Earth multiple times.
The astronauts this year will run on a team called 200 miles, 20 orbits and 90 Schillings.
The team name stems from the length of the relay, the number of orbits Swanson is anticipated to make around the Earth while also running during the event and the team's favorite beverage.
Williams knows a thing or two about running in big races up in space.
In 2007, she ran the Boston Marathon on a treadmill aboard the Space Station.
Although they don't have the same weather and terrain obstacles, Williams said the astronauts can change the resistance and speed of the treadmill to mimic the physical challenge of an incline.
Williams said she and astronauts like Swanson don't just run the marathons for the fun of them.
For one, physical activity is necessary in space to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density.
She said participating in running events also helps to bring awareness to astronauts and the research they are doing in space to learn more about combating conditions like osteoporosis.
Williams said running in marathons and relays from the Space Station makes the daily workout more motivating and fun.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10
Running in space