Nicknamed “The Runner” for running up to six miles a day though the underground tunnels of the Chilean mine he was trapped in, Edison Peña arrives in New York Thursday to take part in the 26-mile NYC Marathon.
The 43-year-old was one of the Chilean Miners trapped underground for 69 days, but he tells PEOPLE he has been training daily. “I’m running more than an hour a day, on the beach, I don’t know how many kilometers that is,” he says in Spanish. “I intend to run the entire 26-mile marathon.”
Surprisingly, he’s had no serious health problems since the dramatic rescue of the miners on Oct. 13. “I feel fine,” he says. “I have a little bit of pain in my left knee but that’s all.”
Rafael Peña, his younger brother, says that while underground, Edison would run in his underpants, boots and a helmet, nothing else. “It was so desperately hot and unbearable,” he says. “But he would run in order to forget, to forget what was happening.” The brother confirms the elder Peña spent the night in the hospital Oct. 21 to get treatment for anxiety, which, he says, helped.
And now that they can, Peña says the miners have “all gone our different ways.”
“But that is only because we are trying to catch up with our families Down the road we will all be getting together again,” he says, adding, “You can’t live life stressing or being upset by what happened. I want to look forward.”
Peña was first invited by New York City Marathon officials to be a guest spectator at the race until he surprised them by saying he wanted to run. “The idea of running the NY Marathon was not something I ever expected to do,” he says. “It seemed impossible ” But now he says, “I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Peña’s other plans post homecoming and race? “I want to get back to a tranquil life … a normal life,” he says. However, the die-hard Elvis fan, who asked rescuers to send some of The King’s music while he was trapped underground, plans to return to the United States to visit Graceland. “I’m going in January,” he says.
• Reporting by NINA BIDDLE