I got into running when I was 12, after joining my school’s Army Cadet Force. I loved all the outward-bound activities, but especially cross-country running. I’ve enjoyed trail running ever since.
Before I was accepted into the European Space Agency’s astronaut-training programme in 2009 [8,413 people applied for six places], I was an Army Air Corps test pilot. I would run outdoors three or four times a week. I run the same amount now, but I spend more time on a treadmill.
I ran the London Marathon in 1999 and loved every minute. When I heard I’d be going to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2015 I asked the medical team if I could run the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon in space the same day everyone will run it on earth. I’m sure the marathon will be one of the highlights of my mission.
I’m doing my marathon training on the ISS as part of my daily fitness routine. Astronauts have to stay fit to counter the effects of living in microgravity for six months. If I did no exercise I would very likely have some difficulties when I got back to Earth. My heart, muscles and bones would be weaker, as they would not have had to work as hard in microgravity, so I exercise for up to two hours a day, using a treadmill, static bike and resistance-training machine.
The treadmill on the ISS isn’t like the ones you get in the gym. I have to wear a harness when I run, which exerts a downward force on my shoulders to stop me floating off it. The harness becomes uncomfortable after about 45 minutes, so running 26.2 miles in it will be quite a challenge. I’m expecting to take between three to four hours.
I’m listening to music and using the RunSocial app on my iPad to keep things interesting. As I run, the iPad displays a virtual landscape that moves by at my running pace. RunSocial have filmed my favourite running route near the village of Comrie in Scotland so I can go for a 10K run up Glen Artney whenever I feel like it.
I’ll also use the RunSocial app to run the Digital Virgin Money London Marathon, along with thousands of runners on earth, on Sunday 24th April. I’ll fuel my effort using a combination of gels and drinks, which were sent up to the ISS on a supply ship.
My fitness regime in space is designed to make sure I’m in good shape when I arrive back on Earth so I hope to be back on the trails soon after I return in May. I’d love to run the 2017 London Marathon – it will give me a great incentive to get myself fit again.
Treat after a run: We're not allowed to take fresh fruit into space so I've brought some fruit pouches with me instead.
Running tunes: I'm listening to rock music when I'm working out 250 miles above the earth - anything from Nickelback and Creed to Queen and Eminem.
Race: Running the London Marathon in 1999 was a real highlight: the crowds, the colour, the energy. I can't wait to feel part of the 2016 race.