Chilean miner rises to the challenge of New York Marathon

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The Independent US

Edison Pena knows a thing or two about marathons, having survived 69 days trapped deep underneath Chile's Atacama Desert. But he discovered yesterday that negotiating 26.2 miles of Manhattan's streets can also be a long, hard slog.

The lifelong fitness fanatic, one of "Los 33" miners rescued last month from the San Jose mine in Northern Chile, achieved one of his personal ambitions when he completed the New York City Marathon in five hours and 40 minutes.

His race was complicated by a lingering knee injury, which he'd picked up underground and caused him to break down half way through. After having ice packs taped to each leg, he walked for most of the second half of the race, crossing the finish line 20 minutes in advance of his target time of six hours.

It was another inspiring chapter in the tale of fortitude that led Pena to become known as "the runner" during his long spell underground.

He got into the habit of beginning each day with a run of between three and six miles 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 has listened constantly during training. New York Marathon officials had organised his visit to the United States and arranged for him to visit The King's mansion, Graceland, in Tennessee later this week.

Before returning home, Mr Pena will also touch-down in Las Vegas, where he will take up 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, but despite his injury, he insisted on taking part in the marathon to inspire other people to take up his favourite sport, saying: "I have a strong desire for motivating others. 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 "Suspicious Minds".