Chilean miner gets another marathon task
EDISON PENA knows a thing or two about marathons, having survived 69 days trapped deep underneath Chile's Atacama Desert.
However, he discovered yesterday that negotiating 26.2 miles (42.2km) of Manhattan's streets can also be a long, hard slog.
The lifelong fitness fanatic is one of "Los 33" miners rescued last month from the San Jose mine in Northern Chile.
He set out to achieve one of his personal ambitions when he joined tens of thousands of professional and amateur runners competing in the New York City Marathon.
He left Staten Island at 9.40am, hoping that despite a knee injury he would complete the course across five of the city's boroughs in about six hours.
In the first 90 minutes, he managed to cover nine miles (14.5km), putting him ahead of schedule.
But soon afterward, a grimace crossed his face and he slowed considerably.
Mr Pena kept going, though, displaying the fortitude that led him to become known as "the runner" during his long spell underground.
Mr Pena got into the habit of beginning each day with a run of between three and six miles (five and 10 kilometres) through darkened tunnels, followed by a gruelling weightlifting session.
Since being rescued, Mr Pena has recalled how he cut his steel-tipped electrician's boots down to ankle height to make them suitable for exercise and sometimes dragged a wooden pallet to develop further strength, saying it was part of a personal mission to "beat the mountain".
His other great passion in life is the music of Elvis Presley, to which he had listened constantly during his arduous training.
Organisers of the New York Marathon have organised his visit to the US and arranged for him to visit the King's mansion, Graceland, later this week.
Before returning home, Mr Pena will also touch down in Las Vegas, where he has front-row seats at 'Viva Elvis', a Cirque de Soleil show based on the musician's oeuvre.
He was originally invited to simply watch yesterday's race. Despite his injury, he insisted on taking part in the marathon to inspire other people to take up his favourite sport.
"I have a strong desire for motivating others," Mr Pena said.
"This is the most important thing for me."
Clearly revelling in his new-found celebrity status, Mr Pena also appeared on David Letterman's 'Late Show' television programme last week, discussing sanitation and living conditions in the mine and, to the delight of the studio audience, performing a rendition of Elvis's hit song, 'Suspicious Minds'. (© Independent News Service)