Posted: Wednesday November 3, 2010 6:17PM ; Updated: Wednesday November 3, 2010 6:17PM
Brian Cazeneuve
Brian Cazeneuve>INSIDE OLYMPIC SPORTS

Chef, miner and weatherman headline NYC Marathon field (cont.)

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edison-pena.jpg
Chilean miner Edison Pena was the 12 miner rescued. While trapped underground he used to stay in shape by running three to six miles.
ARIEL MARINKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images

MINE OVER MATTER

When he was trapped half a mile below ground for 69 days with 32 of his colleagues, Edison Pena used to stay in shape by running three to six miles within tight-tunneled confines. To the world he became known as The Running Miner. On Sunday, the 34-year-old will have a little more space and many more cheering spectators as he attempts to finish the New York Marathon.

According to Wittenberg, when New York Road Runners learned of Pena's background, they invited him to view the race as a guest. But the determined miner asked into the actual race, where he will be joined by a number of his countrymen who had already received entry.

"He demonstrated how running can play an important role in our physical and emotional well being under any circumstances," she says.

WHO COOKED UP THIS IDEA?

When superstar chef Bobby Flay, 45, needs to clear his mind, he leaves the kitchen behind and heads for the pavement along New York's West Side Highway.

"It's great," he says. "There are no phones, no people screaming at you, trying to grab your attention. It's just a quiet place I can breathe and I can think."

A cross-country runner at Xavier High School in New York City, Flay always dreamed of running the New York Marathon.

"Growing up on the East Side, I used to go down with my mom to watch the runners pass by each year," he says. "This was such a great day in New York. It was always a highlight of the year."

Flay ran the New York Marathon twice before, each time finishing in four hours, eight minutes after fading at the end.

"I really want to break four hours," he says. "I didn't train properly the last two times and I paid for it. This year I've used the training program on the Road Runners website and I've just made time."

A Culinary empire notwithstanding, Flay doesn't have any fueling secrets in his kitchen.

"I'll make a simple sauce with pasta the night before," he says. "The next day I'll have a bagel and coconut water. I love that stuff."

His wife will provide the bananas and cheers along the course.

"It doesn't matter what your background is or what your time goal is," Flay says. "When you set your mind to a goal, you can't get away from it."

SUNNY SKIES

At his most perilous and dangerous moments of overindulgence, Al Roker weighed in at 320 pounds. His health and his future at stake, the popular weatherman underwent gastric-bypass surgery in 2002 to reduce the size of his stomach and ultimately to lesson the tax on his heart, thereby extending his lifespan. At the time, Roker just hoped for longevity and a better quality of life.

On Sunday, the 56-year-old will complete a personal journey that has allowed him to shed more than 100 pounds and run several hundred miles. He has the support of his wife, Deborah Roberts, who is an avid runner, and he has his dreaded 20-miler out of the way.

But he is still nervous about how he will fare on Sunday. His mile time, he says, hovers around 13 minutes, an impressive achievement given the challenges gastric-bypass patients sometimes have in undertaking strenuous exercise even years after such a jolting surgery. At least Roker is likely to have an inside track on knowing how to dress for the weather.

FAMILY TIES

When New York Road Runners held its much-anticipated lottery to help narrow the field of 120,000 applicants to fewer than 40,000 runners, Evan Diker wasn't one of the lucky ones.

"I thought I just had to wait until next year," he says. "Then everything happened."

In April, the 35-year-old meeting and event planner for a pharmaceutical company donated a kidney to his 65-year-old father who had suffered from diabetes.

"I could barely move after the surgery," he recalls. "I think my discomfort was worse than most."

The surgery was a success. Diker's running? Not so much. He didn't get on the road until June and didn't go on a full-fledged training run for another month.

"I was hesitant because I had this big scar," he recalls. "I was trying to protect it a little." He was also extra careful to hydrate properly given the donated kidney.

Because Diker subsequently signed up to run for charity, he was able to gain entry into the race. His choice was Team For Kids, the Road Runners' organization that provides fitness programs to children who might not otherwise have the means to afford them.

Diker's inspiration will be pulling for him.

"Before it was kind of just for me," he says. "Now it's for my dad. I think mentally when you go through something like that," he says, "it just makes you stronger, like you can do more than you think you can."

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