November 7, 2010 / 10:15 PM / 10 years ago

Chilean miner wins NY hearts by finishing marathon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - He finished more than three and a half hours behind the champion, yet Chilean miner Edison Pena won the hearts of spectators with an inspiring effort at the New York City Marathon Sunday.

Pena, the 12th miner brought to the surface last month after being trapped with 32 companions for 69 days, ran daily through the tunnels of the mine until the rescue and was invited to New York by race organizers.

Coping with aching knees during his 26.2-mile trip through the five boroughs of New York, Pena completed the journey in five hours 40 minutes 51 seconds to sustained cheers from crowds of more than two million who lined the course.

“It was worthwhile for me to come this far to run a marathon, because I want to motivate people,” Pena, 34, told reporters. “I want to convince them that they can do what they set out to do in life.

“In this marathon I struggled. I struggled with myself, I struggled with my own pain, but I made it to the finish line. I want to motivate other people to also find the courage and strength to transcend their own pain.”

Pena, whose effervescent personality made him the toast of New York this week on TV and around town, ran the first half of the race before pain forced him to stop at a medical stand and have ice packs strapped to both knees.

He walked the rest of the way, before summoning the strength to run the last stretch to the Central Park finish.

“I could have come here to watch the marathon instead of running,” Pena said. “I could have just been a special guest, but I wanted to take up the challenge of running.”

Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Ed Osmond

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