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To Hell and Back

Edison Peña has been to hell and back and he has the photographs to prove it. Edison, an Elvis fan and fanatical runner, was one of 33 miners trapped 700 metres underground at the San Jose mine in Chile.

He ran down pitch-black tunnels on every one of his 69 days of incarceration to beat what he saw as a malevolent mountain trying to crush his spirit.

Writer Dan McDougall and photographer Adam Patterson spent weeks with Edison's family before he was rescued and began corresponding with Edison by letter. He had been jogging in his heavy leather mining boots, so they sent him a pair of Nike running shoes and a camera through the narrow tube connecting the miners to the surface. The pictures Edison took inside the mine give us a unique glimpse of the horrific conditions the miners had to endure.

'I ran because I had fury in my chest,' Peña said. 'I ran with a wind-up battery torch on my head, but it kept cutting out and I would be in darkness. That was the worst time.'

Peña's obsession with 'beating the mountain' began to worry officials and relatives on the surface. Angelica Alvarez, his girlfriend, became concerned for his mental health when he started pulling heavy machinery behind him as he ran.
The miner said he believed the mountain was 'holding us prisoner' and that his only hope of survival was to make himself stronger. 'In the early days the mountain was telling us, "You will die and die slowly and there's nothing you can do",' he said. 'Do you know what it is like to cry with terrible hunger? Do you understand the pain?'

Finally, on October 13th, the rescue operation was complete. Edison was the 12th miner to be freed and, thanks to his exercise regime, the first to return home from hospital. Since being freed he has been invited to run in the New York City marathon, which takes place on November 7th.

A full text by Dan McDougall is available. We are selling these pictures on behalf of Edison Peña.
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