NEW YORK (AP) -- Haitian marathon runner Carline Lamour wiped away tears as she spoke of her chance to compete in Sunday's New York City Marathon.
The 21-year old student, who's making her first visit to the United States, says she's endured both physical and mental challenges to become an athlete in her country as it continues to rebuild after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Long days filled with school followed by training were often peppered with ridicule from villagers.
"People wonder, as a woman, 'Why are you running?'" she said through her translator. Holding back tears, she added, "God brought me here today with my determination."
Lamour is one of five runners representing the island nation for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, the nonprofit started by actor Sean Penn after the earthquake ripped through Haiti, taking the lives of more than 100,000 people. The organization continues its work to bring sustainable programs to the country and save lives.
Last month, after returning from Port-au-Prince to watch the runners train, Penn told The Associated Press, "I love their great discipline and spirit."
The five Haitian athletes are sponsored by the organization's "Long Run for Haiti" campaign on the online CrowdRise fundraising site. Each got their position on the 10-person team by finishing in the top spots of a 20-kilometer qualifying race in Haiti in June.
Besides Lamour, the other Haitian members are Bertine Laine, Astrel Clovis, Petrus Cesarion and Jean Macksony. These elite athletes join forces with five other runners, including actress Pamela Anderson, to make up Team J/P HRO.
Clovis, a 43-year-old mechanic, won the men's qualifying race this summer. He's also the most experienced with numerous half-marathon victories in Haiti. He ran his first full marathon in the Dominican Republic, claiming second place with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes. Cesarion, a 27-year-old mechanics student, finished second in the qualifying race; Macksony, 31, came in third.
Laine was the first woman to finish and was fourth overall in the qualifying race. Like Lamour, she's also breaking barriers by participating in what's still considered "a man's race" in Haiti.
"None of us were that familiar with the (relief) organization. We heard they came for the reconstruction after the earthquake, but we really started familiarizing ourselves with the organization after the (qualifying) marathon," Laine said.
With the exception of Clovis, who had previously met Penn, none of the others was familiar with the actor or his Oscar-winning work.
"We didn't know about him before, it's really from the marathon and working alongside him that we started to get to know him," Lamour said while the others nodded in agreement.
All had heard of the New York City Marathon, but they never imagined they would participate in it.
"Many times we heard about it and watched it on television, but now the dream of coming to the New York City Marathon with the help of J/P HRO has come true," Cesarion said. "Not only make our dreams come true but open our minds to things we've never been exposed to before."
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