NEW YORK (CBS 2) – From complete anonymity to worldwide superstardom, Chile’s Edison Pena, one of the 33 miners who survived being trapped in a mine for 70 days, is soaking up the Big Apple’s welcome.
Pena’s here to run in Sunday’s New York City Marathon and has become an inspiration and an entertainment, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reports.
Pena went to a Chilean restaurant in Manhattan where New Yorkers embraced the running miner.
“I didn’t expect it. I was a very warm welcome. People in New York are very warm,” a translator for Pena said.
It was only three weeks ago when officials rescued Pena and 32 of his fellow miners from the dark depths of the Copiapo, Chile mine. Trapped a mile underground, Pena survived the experience thanks to running six miles a day in suffocating, muddy tunnels.
It was a way to maintain his physical health, and, more importantly, his sanity.
“I was going to turn the tables on destiny. That I was saying to that mine, ‘I can outrun you,’” the interpreter said.
Now all that running is about to pay off. Pena will lace up his sneakers on Sunday for the marathon. Organizers had invited him to watch the 26.2 mile race, but he wanted to run instead.
“He’s not going to crumble. He’s Chile!” his interpreter said.
Pena has also wooed Americans with his love of Elvis. He went on The Late Show with David Letterman earlier this week and gave his best performance and impersonation.
“One for the money. Two for the show. Three to get ready, now go, cat, go,” he sang to a crowd wild with applause and excitement. “Now don’t you step on my blue suede shoes. Now you can do anything, but don’t step on my blue suede shoes.”
Even Letterman couldn’t hold back on his admiration.
“I kinda want to hug you now, too,” Letterman said before grasping the Chilean star.
After Sunday’s race, Pena will head to Graceland and Las Vegas, courtesy of Elvis Enterprises.