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Chilean miner says he ran 'to beat destiny'

By the CNN Wire Staff
Chilean miner Edison Pena was nicknamed "The Runner," because he jogged to Elvis Presley's music while trapped underground.
Chilean miner Edison Pena was nicknamed "The Runner," because he jogged to Elvis Presley's music while trapped underground.
  • Edison Pena was one of 33 miners trapped underground in Chile for more than two months
  • While trapped, Pena ran in the mine's tunnels
  • The Elvis fan will be on Letterman on Thursday and is expected to visit Graceland in January
  • Chile
  • Elvis Presley

New York (CNN) -- One of the Chilean miners rescued after more than two months underground regaled reporters with an Elvis Presley tune Thursday as he prepared for this weekend's marathon in New York City.

Edison Pena said he kept himself sane by running through the subterranean tunnels that held him and 32 other miners from August until mid-October.

"When I ran, I thought I was going to beat destiny," he said. "I told the mine, 'I'm gonna outrun you. I'm gonna run till you're tired and bored of me.'"

Pena and 32 other miners were trapped about 2,000 feet below ground for 69 days. He earned the nickname "the runner" for jogging through one of the mine's tunnels before falling rocks along his route forced him to stop. He was the 12th miner to be rescued

"So immediately we said we want to celebrate this man," said Mary Wittenberg, director of the ING New York City Marathon. "He's one of us and he should be here during the greatest weekend in running that occurs every year."

Tragedy ends in joy for Chilean families

He was originally invited to attend Sunday's marathon as a spectator, but insisted on running in the 26.2-mile race. But Pena, 34, asked reporters Thursday not to "rip me apart" if a knee injury he sustained during his time underground keeps him from finishing.

"Show me some mercy, guys," he said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Dressed in a dark suit, Pena spoke softly and through an interpreter at the news conference. His only foray into English came when he sang a verse of Presley's "Return to Sender" at a reporter's request.

Despite his limited command of the language, he knows most of the words to Elvis classics.

He also is slated to appear on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on Thursday, the first in-studio interview for any of the miners since their rescue, CBS said. And he will visit Presley's former home, Graceland, during Presley's birthday celebrations in Memphis, Tennessee, in January, Elvis Presley Enterprises announced.

He will get a private tour of the mansion and the singer's grave. After that, he will fly to Las Vegas, Nevada, to watch a Cirque du Soleil show based on Presley's music.

"Pena jogged to music from the king of rock 'n' roll and helped keep morale high by leading Elvis sing-a-longs" among the trapped miners, the late singer's estate said in announcing the planned visit.

CNN's Randi Kaye and Lonzo Cook contributed to this report.