She ran on a treadmill 338 km above Earth The astronaut ran on a treadmill 338 km above Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL (Florida): Astronaut Sunita Williams started her version of the Boston Marathon on Monday, running on a treadmill 210 miles (338 kilometres) above Earth undeterred by the wind and rain facing her Massachusetts counterparts.

Already travelling at 17,500 mph (28,162 kph), Ms. Williams started the race on time at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) with race No. 14,000 taped to the front of the treadmill. Two laptop computers were on either side of the treadmill so she could watch a live feed of the race from Boston and keep track of where the international space station was flying.

While racers in Boston bundled up on a raw day, with much of the northeastern United States being pummelled by rain and strong winds, the space station was balmy enough that Ms. Williams needed only a navy T-shirt and shorts.

Restrained to the treadmill in a harness so she would not float away, Ms. Williams ran at a brisk pace at the start of the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) race. Ms. Williams' sister, Dina Pandya, and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg were running in the race on the ground.

"Just want to let you know the team here is cheering for her and by our calculations she already has completed her 26 miles," Mission Control told her crewmate, Michael Lopez-Alegria, a few minutes into the race.

Mr. Lopez-Alegria and Ms. Williams woke up several hours earlier than their crewmates because of the marathon. Also at the space station were Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov and space tourist Charles Simonyi. The 41-year-old Ms. Williams qualified for the Boston race by finishing the Houston Marathon in January in 3 hours, 29 minutes, 57 seconds.

About 45 minutes into the start of the race, or a trip halfway around the world in the space station, Mr. Lopez-Alegria reported to Mission Control, "Suni's still smiling. That's a good sign."

Like many of her counterparts on the ground, Ms. Williams took a short break of a minute or two about an hour into the marathon to stretch her legs and type on the laptop computer. She resumed the race at the same pace as before, more than six miles per hour.

More than a half-hour later, after the space station had circled Earth once since the start of the race, Ms. Williams radioed down to Mission Control, "It's coming up on 9.5 miles now and it looks like we've gone around the world. Nice statistic." - AP