A Tale Of Two Runners: A Man And A Horse, Both With True Heart

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It was the best of times for Edison Pena, after enduring the worst of times.

The Chilean crossed the finish line of the New York Marathon this month after surviving more than eight weeks in the deep darkness of a mine.

The 34-year-old topped the goal he'd set for himself of completing the race through the Big Apple's five boroughs in less than six hours. And Mr. Pena ran far more than those 26.2 miles.

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“I struggled with myself,” he told the Associated Press afterwards. “I struggled with my own pain, but I made it to the finish line. I want to motivate other people to also find the courage and strength to transcend their own pain.”

What a message.

Only weeks earlier he'd been trapped in a mine with 32 other miners in Chile. Sixty-nine days in the mine. And then he's finishing a marathon in New York City.

Truth really is stranger than fiction and in this case that fact is a wonderful thing to behold. Though trapped in the caved-in mine, Mr. Pena refused to be trapped in inside a caved-in mind. Never giving up heart, he jogged six or seven miles a day in 2,300-foot increments, running as far as the light inside the mine would allow him to see.

Mr. Pena told the AP that running was his salvation, his way of proving how much he wanted to live.

No pain could stop him from reaching his goal, limping across the finish line ahead of his pain, leaving the pain to finish last, far enough behind him that it could not catch and hold him back.

All of us have our own pain, whether physical or emotional. If a man who spent more than two months in a collapsed mine can finish the New York Marathon then we can finish ahead of our own pain, too.

And we'll be there with Zenyatta, that amazing six-year-old thoroughbred who finished her career by losing her last race.

The first race she had ever lost, seeking and failing to become the first thoroughbred in horse racing history to retire undefeated in 20 or more races

Anyone who saw the Breeder's Cup Classic race live on television or on tape-even a quite small version on a You Tube clip-could be nothing but impressed with Zenyatta's heart. A notoriously slow starter, she was so far behind going into turn one at Churchill Downs that she appeared to be running solo, or way out in front of the next race. Even down the back stretch she was way last.

But, oh, Zenyatta was not least.

It was the worst of starts.

It was the best of finishes.

Nearly 20 lengths back approaching that first turn, Zenyatta stormed through the field, her long legs churning up the track, blowing by every horse bar but the eventual winner, Blame.

The record book will show that Zenyatta lost her last race.

Film archives will show her losing that last race by a head.

Or less.

But she was still charging, still surging at the finish line.

She finished second, but Zenyatta finished a champion.

In finishing second in that final race, she was perfect in her imperfection.

More so, in some ways, than had she won.

She seemed human.

So full of heart.

So never-say-die.

Running, to the finish, with all she had.

Running beyond the finish.

Never seeing the race as lost.

Racing past the finish line, transcending the difference, in a way that was tangible, between lost and won.

A fit companion for Edison Pena.

And for us all.

Such incandescent will and determination by both.

Lights for those at the bottom of a mine or who see themselves locked in last place with nowhere else left to go.