Chilean miner Edison Pena arrived in the United States on Thursday to try to run the New York City Marathon, greeted at the airport by world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie.
“He couldn’t believe Haile was there to greet him, and he gave him a big hug,” New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said after returning from meeting him at the airport.
Pena was scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Wittenberg said about 150 Chileans who had previously signed up to run the marathon were on two flights from the country into John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday, and they all lined up to cheer as he got off the plane.
“He came out, and they started cheering for him, and he was cheering with them,” she said. “He was clearly a bit overwhelmed by it all.”
Marathon officials invited Pena to attend after hearing about how he jogged in the mines while trapped underground. They were surprised to learn Monday that the triathlete wanted to run the race.
Pena was one of the 33 miners whose saga captivated the world when they were trapped for 69 days after an Aug. 5 collapse stranded them nearly a half-mile underground. The 34-year-old Pena, the 12th miner rescued, is also a big Elvis Presley fan who received an invitation to visit Graceland.
Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian star, is running his first NYC Marathon. He was joined at the airport by 2004 New York champion Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa.