Thursday, November 4, 2010

From the mineshaft to the marathon

Celebrities run the New York City Marathon all the time.

Puff Daddy ran it in 2003, as did Ryan Reynolds in 2008. This year, Jared from Subway and TV weatherman Al Roker will be "running" it (I say "running" it for Roker because he is hoping to finish in under 7 hours, not exactly a record-setting pace).

However, Edison Pena (pictured in green) is not your typical celebrity. The Chilean miner will be running the marathon this weekend less than a month after being among the 32 men rescued from the collapsed gold and copper mines. Like the other miners, Pena was trapped down in the mineshaft for more than 2 months, where he apparently passed the time by running back and forth on a 1,000-yard path in darkness and extreme heat.

The story about this came across the AP wire while I was at work yesterday, and I am still in awe of it.

Even in ideal conditions, a marathon is extremely difficult to train for and compete in. The two I completed required months of hard work, several pairs of running shoes and lord knows how many training miles.

But my training was merely a recreational hobby that fit around my work schedule. I trained on the security of YMCA treadmills and the serenity of outdoor running trails. I viewed the training as a constructive way to fill my free time; nothing more, nothing less. Any aspiring hobbyist would do the same with an activity they enjoy.

However, Pena's training took on a much deeper meaning. For him, it was a necessary distraction from a situation where both he and everyone else in the mineshaft weren't sure they were leaving there alive. Food, water, light and comfort were all limited.

Instead of a nicely paved running trail, Pena ran on rocky and muddy terrain in the dark. Instead of fresh pair of running shoes, Pena did the majority of his training in steel-toe boots cut off at the ankles. Since being rescued from the mineshaft, Pena has kept up with the training by running on an everyday basis, even completing the running leg of a relay triathlon recently.

Regardless of how long it takes Pena to complete the NYC Marathon (I would bet money that he'll beat Al Roker), he can count me as one of his many admirers.

Incredible stuff.

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