Reporting Juliet Papa
NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/WCBS 880/AP) – Chilean miner Edison Pena arrived in the United States on Thursday to try to run the New York City Marathon, greeted at the airport by world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie.
Pena said at a news conference Thursday that he jogged through the tunnels while trapped underground to “beat destiny.” So he doesn’t just want to attend the New York marathon as a guest, or simply start the race. It may take him 6 hours, bad knee and all, but he intends to complete the 26.2 miles.
The 34-year-old Pena looked quite comfortable surrounded by more than 100 media members at a news conference. He even sang a few lines from his beloved Elvis Presley, whose music helped him through those daily 6 or 7-mile runs in the mine.
Pena was still glowing over who greeted him at the airport when he flew in Thursday morning — world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie. Like Pena, Gebrselassie will be running his first New York City Marathon.
“He couldn’t believe Haile was there to greet him, and he gave him a big hug,” New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said after returning from meeting him at the airport.
Wittenberg said about 150 Chileans who had previously signed up to run the marathon were on two flights from the country into John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday, and they all lined up to cheer as he got off the plane.
“He came out, and they started cheering for him, and he was cheering with them,” she said. “He was clearly a bit overwhelmed by it all.”
Marathon officials invited Pena to attend after hearing about how he jogged in the mines while trapped underground. They were surprised to learn Monday that the triathlete wanted to run the race.
Pena was one of the 33 miners whose saga captivated the world when they were trapped for 69 days after an Aug. 5 collapse stranded them nearly a half-mile underground. The 34-year-old Pena, the 12th miner rescued, is also a big Elvis Presley fan who received an invitation to visit Graceland.
Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian star, is running his first NYC Marathon. He was joined at the airport by 2004 New York champion Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)