Feeling the Weight of Weightlessness

Gina was used to running; she was no stranger to the half-marathon. But her body was already forgetting. The old familiar rhythm felt as unbalanced as an out-of-round wheel. At first she blamed the lack of gravity. That was still the issue, but now she blamed her body. She took it personally.

It was funny in a twisted way. Her habitual running contributed to her excellent blood pressure, larger heart, increased bone density, more numerous capillaries, and greater lung capacity: all things that contributed to her selection as a member of the Marvin III expedition. It was the third in a series of private space launches to Mars, and the first with colonists. Sure, NASA had already been there, but that was a 30-day vacation. Marvin was permanent.

In preparation for the long journey, Gina recorded hundreds of her runs on Earth using a 360-degree camera. Now, tethered to one of the Marvin‘s treadmills, she relived those old runs virtually, the machine automatically matching the speed and elevation changes from her recordings. The VR headset allowed her to look around and see things she might have missed the first time around. She’d traveled the world and created an impressive collection of recordings that included every continent. Today she was on the Split Rock Trail on Antelope Island. There was snow between the dry brush, and two wild bison eyed her from a distance.

The experience was nearly convincing, but she couldn’t enjoy it. She was running more hours a day than ever before, but she was increasingly too exhausted to finish. She couldn’t keep up with her recorded self anymore, and her knees ached more often than not. Moving to Mars was never going to be without sacrifices, but she thought she’d made those before she left. Now she was losing running, and there was still a month to go before landing. She worried that she’d inadvertently sacrificed one passion to feed another. And perhaps it would be worth it, someday. But it didn’t feel that way today.

Gina removed her headset, released the bungies, and floated away.

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