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November 4, 2010

Edison Pena

Mary Wittenberg


RICHARD FINN: Welcome, everybody, my name's Richard Finn, I'm the director of media relations for the New York Road Runners, welcome to the ING New York City Marathon. Obviously, we have a very full room.
Edison Pena is here as a runner. He's one of the 43,000 that will be on the starting line on Sunday. We would appreciate and welcome questions about him as a runner, about his thoughts about coming here to New York.
I'd like to turn it over to New York Road Runners president and CEO, Mary Wittenberg. Mary?
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you so much, Richard. Welcome to everybody. On behalf of our entire board of directors and George Hirsch, our chairman, and our entire team at New York Road Runners, we welcome you and we are so very, very pleased to welcome Edison Pena; his wife, Angelica, and Fiol from the Consulate of Chile here in New York. And since this is Edison's first trip to New York City, and the first time, obviously, he'll be here for Marathon weekend. We want to give him a tiny glimpse of the making of the Marathon, the preparation going on now, and a little bit of sense of what's ahead on Marathon Sunday.
RICHARD FINN: We bring your attention to the screens.
MARY WITTENBERG: Three weeks ago as the world watched in unison and we slowly began to be able to take collective breaths of relief as each miner emerged from the darkness. One miner in particular struck a cord with all of us at New York Road Runners.
At New York Road Runners, we are big believers in the power of running. We know running as a light, we know running as a salvation, we know running as an anchor, and I and we, immediately felt a little bit better when we learned that one of the miners had that force of running with him while in the darkness.
So, immediately, we said we want to celebrate this man. He's one of us, and he should be here during the greatest weekend in running that occurs every year.
We knew that every other runner would reach out and want to embrace him. We knew that New Yorkers would similarly want to cheer him, and so we invited him to be our guest on Marathon Weekend.
We were thinking VIP guest. We were thinking have a nice breakfast, sit inside a warm tent, wander out to go to the store, perhaps, certainly hold the finish line tape. Maybe drive the course in a car. To be honest, it didn't even strike us that he might want to run.
But when we heard last week that Edison wanted to come and he wanted to run, in so many ways it wasn't a surprise.
EDISON PENA: Yes, I was very eager to take on this huge challenge of the New York Marathon. I wanted to show the world that I could run it, and that, yes, we can. We can and that's why I wanted to participate.
When I ran in the darkness, I was running for life.
MARY WITTENBERG: This morning we welcomed Edison at the airport, and I started thinking, it's nice of us from New York Road Runners to welcome him. But this is a runner. I got a sense from Wayne and others who had talked to him, we had a real runner here. So who better to welcome a real runner than the world's greatest runner?
So Haile Gebrselassie, fresh off his flight from Addis Ababa, and Hendrick Ramaala, a New York champion, joined us in welcoming Edison this morning. We thought you might want to see some of the photos from the welcome. This is Edison getting off the plane, Fiol from the consulate. There were about 100 Chilean runners coming off the flight, all here for the marathon, and they instantly started the cheer.
EDISON PENA: Yes, there were many patriots and Chilean countrymen on the flight that knew me and a lot of professional runners. I thought maybe they wouldn't want to speak to me, but they were all very cordial and friendly.
MARY WITTENBERG: I think this is when Edison recognizes our special greeter. I mean, you can't believe the smile on Edison's face. And look at this, he almost fell.
EDISON PENA: Wow, wow. It's incredible. Yeah, running, you know, you run just to run. That's what's most important. He's an amazing runner, but some of us just run to run.
MARY WITTENBERG: And immediately, I was thinking, okay, we'll introduce Haile, there was no introduction necessary.
EDISON PENA: Yeah, I saw him with my own eyes. There he was.
MARY WITTENBERG: He exclaimed Haile, just like we all do.
EDISON PENA: There we all are. I really felt the warmth of the people, my countrymen, and the warmth of the welcome. So, yes, I felt the warmth of everyone, and of course there are professional runners that are really serious about this, and then there are other folks that love to run, like myself, who are amateurs. But, you know, we're not out to break any record, we're just out to run.
MARY WITTENBERG: I think let's go to questions.
RICHARD FINN: Questions for Edison Pena.

Q. You said that when you ran in the darkness, "I was running for life." Can you tell us more about that as to what running was giving you while you were trapped?
EDISON PENA: Yes, I was running to show that I wasn't just waiting around. I was running to be an active participant in my own salvation. I wasn't just waiting around. I was running because I was also contributing to the struggle for our rescue.
I also wanted God to see that I really wanted to live.

Q. Did you ever think you'd be in the New York City Marathon and how long do you think it will take you to run the Marathon?
EDISON PENA: Well, I never thought I'd be in the New York City Marathon. I just never had the means to even entertain the possibility of participating. And in response to the question about how long it may take me to run the marathon, I'm thinking maybe six hours.

Q. There's a big difference between running three to six miles a day and running 26 Miles; how are you so sure you'll finish?
EDISON PENA: I have a knee injury from being in the mine, but I'm eager to cross the finish line.
MARY WITTENBERG: I'll add, we've made very clear we're happy for Edison just to be here. So we're encouraging a walking and running approach. But he obviously has a mind of his own, so we'll see what happens.

Q. I understand that you did not run immediately when you were in the mine when it first collapsed. What was it that convinced you to start running, and what did those first steps feel like?
EDISON PENA: Yeah, from the beginning it wasn't even possible to run. Yeah, we just couldn't in the beginning in the darkness. But I made a promise to God that I was going to run and I began to run.
So it was really exciting to take those first steps to begin to run again. To make it easier to run, what I did was I took my knee-high mining boots, and I cut them with some electrician pliers down to about here. Then I was all set, and I could run.
I think that the message here is that I found a way to run. I didn't say, oh, you know, I can't. No, I tried and I succeeded and I did it. That's the message. Of course I did that in the darkness without light. Yeah, and it was 30° Celsius underground.

Q. Can you talk about what it means to come to New York and to participate in the ING New York City Marathon, one of the great spectacles in sports, thank you?
EDISON PENA: So it's a dream come true. I mean, the first dream come true was to see the light of day again, and I had to go through all of this to be here today, and I did.

Q. Do you credit running with helping you survive those 69 days underground? And also, what is your life like now with all of this media attention?
EDISON PENA: Running helped me connect with God. As for being in front of a sea of journalists and TV cameras, yeah, well that's pretty new for me. It's sort of unreal.

Q. (Question in Spanish asking about fellow miners)?
EDISON PENA: Yes, as far as my brother miners, of course we all suffered together. But since the rescue, most of us are spending as much time with our families as possible. Actually I've just seen three or four of my colleagues when I go to doctor check-ups in Santiago.

Q. Two-part question, first, did you get your shoes, your running shoes?

Q. Do they fit?
EDISON PENA: Two pairs.

Q. I'm also curious what your thoughts are on how this -- I've been at this race for 22 years or something like that, and there's never been a press conference remotely like this -- I'm curious what your thoughts are and why you think you and your fellow miners became really heros on a global scale?
EDISON PENA: People say that we're heros, but I don't think we are. It's just what destiny had in store for us. We had a very slim possibility of surviving, and we did and here we are.

Q. On a serious note, could you tell us about what you were thinking when you were running underground? What went through your mind? And on a lighter note, what role did Elvis Presley songs play during your time in the mine?
EDISON PENA: I'm going to answer everything, just a second. What I thought about as I ran in the mine was that I was going to beat destiny. I was going to turn the tables on destiny. That I was saying to that mine, "I can outrun you. I'm going to run until you're just tired and bored of me," and I did it.
As far as Elvis goes, wow.
MARY WITTENBERG: He actually did sing in the car and could carry a tune.
EDISON PENA: (Singing.) "I gave a letter to the postman, he put it in his sack, bright and early next morning, he brought my letter back. She wrote upon it: Return to sender, address unknown."
The first thing I asked for was an iPod with Elvis tunes. I thought I'd never hear him again.

Q. Can you tell us about your previous experience with running and competing?
EDISON PENA: I haven't run in a race in a long time, but I have been an amateur runner for very long. In my hometown, I run all the time.
MARY WITTENBERG: Edison was telling me earlier that he used to run -- did he run to school, run as a means of transportation?
EDISON PENA: Yeah, I used to run to school in Santiago. It wasn't too far away though.

Q. (Question in Spanish about the challenge of running the New York City Marathon.)
EDISON PENA: Yes, this marathon is a challenge, but in addition to the marathon and just in general, what's most important to me and the biggest challenge I'm feeling and facing is how I can motivate others.
MARY WITTENBERG: Did you try to motivate the other miners to run?
EDISON PENA: Yes, I did.
EDISON PENA: And some of them did join me in running. Yes, that's the truth.
MARY WITTENBERG: They'll have to come next year.

Q. Was it worth it after 69 days in a mine and now in New York City, one of the greatest races in the world?
EDISON PENA: Yes, it was worthwhile. It was worth suffering and sticking it out, and it's just incredible to be here today.

Q. Did you expect all of this for you, all of these people to listen to you? And after this marathon, what do you expect; how is your life going to be as a runner?
EDISON PENA: Actually, it's incredible that there are all these people here. I sort of doubt that they're actually here to hear from me.
As far as what I'm going to do as a runner after the marathon, I want to dedicate more time to running as an amateur.

Q. In the mine, when you were running, how dark was it? And did you ever run into anything?
EDISON PENA: It was so dark that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. As you know, miners have miner lamps and I ran with my miner lamp on my helmet, and that allowed me to see where I was going.
As the rescue operation developed, they were able to send us more light sources and that helped.

Q. You set a set a record for training for the New York Marathon underground. What does that mean to you?
EDISON PENA: It's a huge challenge. I could have come here just to watch, but I wanted to participate because I wanted to feel what the New York Marathon feels like.
I'd like the gentlemen and ladies of the press to kindly promise that you're not going to rip me apart in your stories if I can't stand the pain in my knee. So, you know, show me some mercy, guys.
MARY WITTENBERG: To make sure you're ready, we've got two things for you. You received your shoes this morning. This is very important, we'll stand up. You have your official race bib. And, like every runner, I noticed right away Edison had his watch. His Timex watch. And we talked a lot about how important his watch was in the mine. And I said running royalty welcomed Edison this morning, so now we have football royalty, Amani Toomer of the New York Giants, who is running himself. What do you have for him, Amani?
AMANI TOOMER: This is an Indiglo watch that will help him with this light, you can see right there. And this is the watch that I'm going to be wearing in the marathon. It's a GPS watch, and it's for you.
MARY WITTENBERG: What is very special about this watch, it's an ING New York City Marathon watch.
EDISON PENA: Incredible.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you so much. Amani is running as well, his first marathon for our kids program. We'll have to think of what royalty we have next to offer up.
EDISON PENA: Viva Chile.
RICHARD FINN: Thank you very much.

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