Life in the mine for one of 'Los 33'

Extraordinary photographs reveal the routine that kept Edison Peña going during his 69 days underground

Guy Adams
Friday 29 October 2010 00:00

They aren't your average holiday snaps, but these photographs tell the story of a long and sometimes challenging journey that few people, least of all Edison Peña will ever forget.

The lifelong fitness fanatic and Elvis Presley obsessive was one of "Los 33" who spent 69 days trapped inside the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile before being released earlier this month.

During his spell underground, Mr Peña became known to the world as "the runner" thanks to his habit of beginning each day with a long run, followed by a gruelling weightlifting session. He chronicled the experience for posterity using a camera sent down to him through a narrow tube bored through half a mile of solid rock to the section of mine where the men had been trapped by an accident in early August.

The camera was provided by the writer Dan McDougall and a photographer, Adam Patterson, who spent weeks with Mr Peña's family on the surface. After hearing that he'd been jogging in his heavy leather mining boots, they also sent him a pair of Nike running shoes. The medical team on the surface dispatched the heart-rate monitor you can see in these photos to ensure that he didn't over-exert himself.

"I ran because I had fury in my chest," says Mr Peña, looking back on the experience. "I ran with a wind-up battery torch on my head, but it kept cutting out and I would be in darkness. That was the worst time."

During his long spell in captivity, Mr Peña's obsession with "beating the mountain" began to worry rescue workers and relatives on the surface. Angelica Alvarez, his girlfriend, became concerned for his mental health when he started pulling heavy machinery behind him as he ran.

Speaking this week, the miner explained, however, that he believed the mountain was "holding us prisoner" and that his only hope of survival was to make himself stronger. "In the early days the mountain was telling us, 'You will die and die slowly and there's nothing you can do'," he said. "Do you know what it is like to cry with terrible hunger? Do you understand the pain?" On 13 October, Mr Peña became the 12th miner to be released. A day later, thanks to his extraordinary fitness, he was the first out of hospital.

Since then, he has returned to the desert, in running gear, to take a final souvenir photo. He is currently considering an invitation to take part in the New York Marathon on 7 November, which would allow him to take up an offer to swing by Graceland, the home of his idol Elvis Presley, on the return journey.

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