NEW YORK (AP) — A Chilean miner who jogged miles underground while waiting to be rescued joined some of the world’s best marathoners and thousands of other runners in the New York City Marathon on Sunday.
Edison Pena started off in Staten Island at 9:40 a.m., hoping to cover the 26.2-mile-course through the city’s five boroughs in six hours. By 11:12 a.m., “The Runner” — as his fellow miners had nicknamed him — had covered about 9 miles, cheered on by spectators as he made his way through Brooklyn. About an hour into the run, a grimace crossed his face as he slowed a bit. But he kept running.
“First, I want to run this marathon, but secondly, I’d like to motivate those people who aren’t running the marathon to do so in the future,” he said before the race through a translator, jumping up and down to warm up. “I also want to especially motivate young children and youth to run because running makes you free.”
The 34-year-old was among the 33 miners rescued last month after spending 69 days trapped 2,300 feet underground by a cave-in. An avid runner, he jogged several miles every day through tunnels.
He had cut his steel-tipped electrician’s boots down to ankle height so he could train each morning and afternoon along the rocky, muddy 1,000-yard corridor where the men were trapped in stifling heat and humidity.
He built up strength by dragging a large wooden pallet that was attached to a cord tied to his waist.
NYC Marathon officials heard about Pena’s subterranean training and planned to invite him as an honored guest. But he wanted to actually run the race.
Pena, runner No. 7127, joined about 45,000 runners from 50 states and more than 100 countries, all looking to cross the finish line in Central Park. It is his first trip outside of Chile.
The most Pena ever ran in the mine was 6 or 7 miles a day — sometimes singing Elvis Presley songs in-between.
Pena says he ran to clear his head, to push away his anxiety. He always kept his faith, he said. “I always had faith to keep fighting, to stand up to things, to do what could be done.”
In New York, he would take things in stride too, having had only a few days to consider a course he would cover with a knee injury suffered in the mine collapse.
Pena hasn’t competed in years as an amateur runner. Since the rescue, he covered 6.5 miles as part of a team triathlon event in Chile on Oct. 24.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)