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Tuesday, November 2,2010

Rescued Chilean miner to attend N.Y. marathon festivities

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

NEW YORKEdison Pena, one of the 33 miners fetched from a half-mile underground after spending 69 days in a collapsed Chilean copper mine last month, has accepted an invitation to attend New York City Marathon festivities this weekend and may attempt the 26-mile, 385-yard race.

Pena was reported to run up to six miles a day, through a system of tunnels in the mine, during his ordeal. And it was that awareness that prompted race director Mary Wittenberg, the day after the miners' dramatic rescue was televised worldwide on Oct. 13, to invite Pena to be a guest at her race.

"I thought, we have to invite him," said Wittenberg, president of the New York City Road Runners Club, which operates the event. "Runners, New Yorkers, are going to want to celebrate this guy. It really speaks to what running is, you know, what a stabilizing force it can be for somebody. And to have the strength actually to run during that time in the mine was amazing. So we invited him."

Wittenberg worked through the Chilean consulate, which informed her Monday morning that Pena and his wife would travel to New York at the Road Runners' expense, though it remained unclear whether Pena, 34, would participate in Sunday's race.

"Somebody said, 'Are you inviting him to run?' " Wittenberg said. "I said, 'He can run, but we're inviting him to be our guest.' We had an extensive conversation about the 42k (the distance of a marathon in kilometers) and how hard it is. He wants to start. He wants to do it.

"The idea was celebrating somebody who is like-minded, in terms of the importance of running to all of us ... I cannot wait."

Wittenberg, who doesn't speak Spanish and has dealt with Pena exclusively through the consulate, said she remains unclear about Pena's fitness or whether he ever has attempted a marathon. She was told he completed "a triathlon of some sort" — a competition of swimming, cycling and running — since his rescue.

There were several reports of Pena's daily runs to keep fit while trapped in the mine, and Wittenberg's original intention was to bring him to the marathon "to be celebrated by the fellow runners," who are expected to number 45,000 on Sunday — including 243 Chilean citizens.

The marathon, which has a budget of more than $20 million, this year rolled out the marketing theme of "I'm in. We're in" to demonstrate, Wittenberg said, how "we're always trying to increase the reach and the relevancy of this race." But she did not want Pena's invitation to be "a PR thing; we wanted to invite the guy. It could be a story when he got here."


(c) 2010, Newsday.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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