Chilean miner’s latest amazing feat … the New York marathon


Edison Pena was greeted by cheers and a media whirlwind during first trip abroad to take part in 26-mile event

Chilean miner Edison Pena runs the New York marathon
Chilean miner Edison Pena took his first trip abroad to run the New York marathon. ????
Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images?

It is, quite simply, the classic plot of every fish-out-of-water film, hitting all of the cliches along the way with the enthusiasm of a 1980s comedy: the unlikely outsider arrives in New York, after some initial translation difficulties the city falls gleefully in love with this eccentric newcomer, he then accomplishes some incredible feat, the city cheers, cue end credits, over a rendition of – in this particular case – Elvis. Ever since Edison Peña, one of the 33 miners who had been trapped underground in Chile for 69 days, arrived in New York on Thursday on his first trip abroad to compete in the New York Marathon – which he ran today  [yesterday for the readers, editor’s note] – this Crocodile Dundee with a pickaxe has been on the kind of high-profile media tour that would make Paris Hilton envious. He appeared on The David Letterman Show, did the breakfast TV rounds, gave newspaper interviews, hosted packed press conferences and – truly confirming that Chilean miners are this year’s A-list celebrities – has been pursued through the city by that most tabloid of gossip websites,, which more often devotes its time to ascertaining what that white blotch in Lindsay Lohan’s nose might be as she leaves an LA nightclub than the antics of a cheerful 34-year-old miner. Rather than shielding his face, or throwing coffee, as is the usual interaction between celebrities and paps, Peña made a good-hearted giggle at the journalist’s attempts to speak Spanish. Even was charmed: “Chilean Miner – Blinded by Terrible Spanish”, was the website’s uncharacteristically good natured headline. When Peña emerged from the mine on 13 October, the 12th man to be hauled up, there was a hint of future celebrity potential when he said that he had entertained his fellow miners by singing Elvis Presley songs. After it transpired that Peña had also maintained his daily runs in the mine, Mary Wittenberg, CEO of New York Road Runners, the organisation behind the marathon, invited Peña to New York to watch the marathon. Already showing the diva quality of a future star, Peña retorted that simply wasn’t good enough: he wanted to run init. In New York, he has proved the perfect celebrity storm, combining an extraordinary back story, endearing humility, infectious excitement and natural extroversion. (Just as he once entertained his fellow miners with Return to Sender and Suspicious Minds, so he has been entertaining the whole of New York with his spontaneous Presley homages, making them a tradition for every TV appearance and press conference). He has repeatedly referred to his “astonishment” that one of the sponsors of the marathon gave him a pair of trainers for free (“I couldn’t believe it!”) and language difficulties have proven no bar to him making TV audiences cheer. But not very long ago, he nearly quit running for good. For the first 18 days when he was trapped, he gave up hope, and curled up, waiting for death. Yet once contact had been made with the outside world and he believed life might continue, he resumed his running, covering up to six miles a day in the dark. “I ran to forget I was 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 survive. Eventually, I chose to live,” he told the Daily News this week. For Peña the marathon represented proof that “running makes you free”, he said, before the race. All along the marathon, Chilean flags flew, and Peña returned the love. “He’s hitting so many of those high fives!” fretted one sportscaster. But mere hand slaps were never going to overwhelm Peña. Despite having to slow to a stroll at one point and making a brief stop to ice his leg, Peña, the 12th miner and runner 7127, picked up to a steady trot towards the end and crossed the finish line at 3:30, making his time come in at a sliver under 6 hours, as was his goal. He was momentarily too tired for Elvis, but he was free.

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