In this photo taken Oct. 13, 2010, rescued miner Edison...

In this photo taken Oct. 13, 2010, rescued miner Edison Pena arrives at the hospital in Copiapo, Chile. Pena, who jogged regularly in the unblocked tunnels of the mine where he and 32 other miners spent trapped over two months, will run at the New York City's marathon next Sunday, Nov. 7. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills) Credit: AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

Edison Peña, empirical evidence of human endurance, told an overflow New York City Marathon news conference Thursday that he had run regularly in the collapsed Chilean mine, where he and 32 others were trapped for 69 days, with thoughts that "I was going to beat destiny, turn the tables on destiny."

"I was saying to that mine, 'I'm going to outrun you, until you're more tired than me,' " he said. "And I did."

Peña punched the air for emphasis. During the 45-minute question-and-answer session, Peña, 34, mixed sly humor and a brief rendition of Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender" - his first request out of the mine, he said, was an iPod with Elvis tunes - with his declaration that he wanted to compete in Sunday's 26-mile, 385-yard race "because I wanted to feel what the New York Marathon feels like."

"It's a huge challenge," said Peña, speaking through a translator. "I could've come here just to watch, but I wanted to participate. And I'd like for the gentlemen and ladies of the press to kindly promise that you'll not rip me apart if I can't stand the pain in my knee [Sunday]. Show me some mercy, guys."

He hoped, he said, to finish in six hours. Often playful during Thursday's session, Peña said he had injured his left knee in the mine accident. He said he was able to run through a series of tunnels in the dark and extreme heat by wearing his miner's lamp and cutting his high miner's boots down just above the ankles.

"I was running to show that I wasn't just waiting around," he said. "I was running to be an active participant in my own salvation. I was running because I was also contributing to the struggle for a rescue, and I wanted God to see that I really wanted to live."

He said he has been a runner - not for records or championships but because he loved it - most of his life, including running to school as a boy in his native Santiago. "It wasn't far," he added with a grin.

New York City Marathon director Mary Wittenberg invited Peña because "we wanted to celebrate this man. He's one of us. He should be here during the greatest weekend in running that occurs every year.

"We were thinking, VIP guest," she said. "Have a nice breakfast, sit inside a warm tent, wander out to the start, hold the finish-line tape, maybe drive the course in a car. It didn't strike us that he would want to run, but, to be honest, in so many ways it wasn't a surprise."

Wittenberg had greeted Peña upon his arrival at Kennedy Airport Thursday morning along with world marathon record-holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and South Africa's Hendrick Ramaala, the 2004 New York City champion, who had arrived on separate flights barely an hour before Peña.

He then met with marathon medical officials, "just to make sure he understands" the demands of the 26-mile, 385-yard race, a marathon spokesperson said.Wittenberg formally presented him a running bib with the block letters PEÑA and said he probably would start at the rear of the first of three large waves of participants, expected to number 43,000.

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