Edison Pena, who jogged through a collapsed Chilean mine while trapped 69 days, showed he is ready for the spotlight of New York City.
"I gave a letter to the postman," he crooned in his best Elvis voice to a room full of reporters who applauded his rendition of "Return to Sender." Pena had asked for an iPod loaded with Elvis tunes for his runs through the mine that he said were meant to prove something.
"I was running to show that I wasn't just waiting around," Pena said through a translator. "I was running to be an active participant in my own salvation. I was running because I was also contributing to the struggle for our rescue. And I wanted God to see that I really wanted to live."
Inspired by his runs, which Pena did in his mining boots, New York Road Runners invited him to watch this Sunday's ING New York City Marathon.
But Pena, 34, intends to run the 26.2 miles, he said, "to inspire others." He has a knee injury from his time in the mine and he figures it'll take him six hours.
"I'd like the gentlemen and ladies of the press not to rip me apart if I can't stand the pain in my knee, so show me some mercy guys," he said gingerly.
Mary Wittenberg, CEO of New York Road Runners, said she watched with relief the day the 33 miners began to ascend from the depths. "One miner in particular struck a chord with all of us," she said. "We are big believers in the power of running. 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."
Pena said the tunnels he ran were pitch black. He used his miner's light to illuminate the paths he jogged.
"We had a very slim possibility of surviving but we did and here we are." Pena arrived in New York Thursday on a flight with 243 other Chilean runners. He was greeted at the airport by the world's top runner, Haile Gebrselassie.
"Wow, wow," Pena said when asked for his reaction to the greeting. "I never thought I would be in the New York City Marathon. I just never had the means to even entertain the possibility of participating. It's a dream."
Pena, dressed in a dark suit, was given a new pair of Asics and former New York Giants player Amani Toomer presented Pena with a Timex watch. He'll be a guest on the "Late Show with David Letterman."
Early next year Pena will return to the United States for a tour of Graceland in Memphis during Elvis Presley's annual birthday celebration January 6-9. Graceland and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau offered an all-expenses-paid trip.