Chilean miner Edison Peña has left a lasting impression on the residents of New York and viewers around the world following a week where he swiveled his hips and sang an Elvis tune during prime-time television and then completed the daunting New York City marathon.
Peña, the miner known as ‘the runner’ for his exercise regime while he was trapped nearly half-a-mile underground in the San José mine in Chile’s Atacama desert, was cheered on during the Nov. 7 race by nearly two million people who lined the city’s streets.
He had originally been invited by race organizers to watch the marathon but he then told them he wanted to participate in it.
Less than a month after being pulled safely to the surface in a flawless rescue operation, Peña half-ran, half-walked the 26 mile distance, crossing the finish line waving a Chilean flag.
His preparation for the race was rather unusual. Trapped underground for a record-breaking 69 days, Peña had run up to five miles a day through the mine’s tunnels in his work boots, often while listening to Elvis songs. An aching in his knee during the gruelling 26 mile run in New York forced him to stop and have ice packs wrapped around his leg, but he was determined to finish.
“It was worthwhile for me to come this far to run a marathon because I want to motivate people,» Peña, 34, told reporters in New York. «I want to convince them that they can do what they set out to do in life.
«In this marathon I struggled. I struggled with myself, I struggled with my own pain, but I made it to the finish line. I want to motivate other people to also find the courage and strength to transcend their own pain.»
Also while he was in New York, Peña appeared on the popular US network TV program The Late Show with David Letterman. Dressed in black suit, white dress shirt and grey tie, Peña traded jokes with the host in an interview conducted through a translator.
He brought the live audience to its feet and received a hug from Letterman when he broke into a spontaneous rendition of Elvis’ Suspicious Minds, complete with ‘The King’s’ signature dance moves (watch clip on YouTube).
Peña has accepted an invitation to visit Graceland, Elvis’ former estate in Memphis, in January.