Edison Pena, the slight 34-year old Chilean miner who spent over two months trapped underground, gave an interview to the Daily News yesterday in which he detailed his experience in the mine and discussed his decision to run in the ING NYC Marathon this Sunday. He said of being trapped, "I became two people: the weak person who wanted simply to give up, and the person who chose to be strong - to run and to survive. Eventually, I chose to live."
Pena, a devout Christian who has never left Chile before now, devoted nearly four hours per day commuting to and from the mine, by bicycle. When the cave-in occurred, he spent most of the 18 days before the outside world made contact curled up in a corner with barely enough energy to move. "We heard nothing, saw nothing. We were dying, little by little." After it became clear that rescue was on its way, Pena, like Forrest Gump, just started running: He'd tie a wooden palette to his waist for resistance, grab a flashlight, crank up the Elvis on his iPod, and run a circuit around the mine's darkened tunnels, speaking his thoughts into a tape recorder along the way.
As word of his ritual (and nickname, "The Running Miner") began to spread after the rescue, New York Roadrunners CEO Mary Wittenberg invited Pena and his girlfriend Angelica to watch the Marathon, but Pena responded that he'd prefer not to be a spectator, but a participant, though he's never run more than 10 miles. Wittenberg, who calls the Marathon "the ultimate affirmation of life," says Pena is "a hero among runners and men."
Pena hopes to finish in under four hours. "I know it will be very hard, (but) I have no fear. I am not a grand champion, but I have always been an athlete."