Science, Tech & Environment

Rescued Chilean miner in New York marathon

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The New York City marathon course includes some pretty special sights, from the start on Staten Island to the finish line in Central Park. All of them will be new to Edison Pena.

Until recently, the 34 year-old was doing his running two thousand feet underground, at the bottom of the infamous -now famous � collapsed mine in Chile. Before their rescue, Pena and his companions were trapped underground for 69 days.

Each day he could, Pena ran six miles through the twisting tunnels of the mine. At a news conference in New York Thursday, he said it kept him going.

�I ran to show that I wasn't just waiting around; to be an active participant in my own salvation,� Pena said.

That image of a man in the darkness, running with only a miner's lamp for illumination struck a chord with Mary Wittenberg of New York Road Runners, the club which organizes the marathon.

�Her comments from the moment he came out were �please come to New York',� says Ken Belson of The New York Times.

�It's a wonderfully opportunistic chance for the Road Runners: they grabbed the mantle immediately, and the timing was perfect too. They escaped from the mine several weeks ago so there was time to organise everything.�

Belson says it's a publicity coup to have Edison Pena running in the New York race. And publicity is everything for the world's major marathons � all of which are competing to attract the top runners and wheelchair-racers.

�The race directors from the big five races�London, Berlin, Chicago, Boston and New York�have to recreate their field every single year. That's a full time job,� Belson said.

The participation of a rescued Chilean miner�and one who for many is symbol of the power of running�adds luster to the whole event, even if the amateur and professional races operate in two different universes.

�The elite runners will see that and say �gee, if I run in New York I can take advantage of that media spotlight',� Belson said.

Those elite runners are invited from all corners of the globe. Apart from Edison Pena, the big draw this year is the Ethiopian world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie.

There will be thousands of other foreign runners too. That leaves less room for locals, but Ken Belson says it's still a good deal for New York City.

�The number one foreign, non-US group represented, Italy: nearly 4000 runners last year. France, almost 3000. Germany, more than 2000. You add them all together, they're bringing their families with them, they're spending more money here for more nights because they tend to turn it into vacations.. you add it all up and it's tens of millions of dollars extra for New York City,� Belson said.

In case you're wondering: last year the number of Chilean runners taking part in the New York marathon was 262. This year, all eyes will be on a single one�. Edison Pena.

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