A profile of two elite Haitian female marathoners: Bertine Lainé and Carline Lamour
On any given day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, you can count on your fingers the number of runners training in the street. They are a rare and impressive sight: dodging traffic and weaving past pedestrians and street vendors, finding their footing amid potholes and debris. They are a testament to Haiti’s small but growing running community. Yet as in most sports, women have yet to fully find their place in what is largely seen as “a man’s race.”
Competing in marathons in Port-au-Prince and across Haiti to the Dominican Republic, they’ve been consistently breaking social barriers, one race at a time, seeking to make room for women at the starting line.
Two female athletes stand out: Bertine Lainé, 31 and Carline Lamour, 21. Competing in marathons in Port-au-Prince and across Haiti to the Dominican Republic, they’ve been consistently breaking social barriers, one race at a time, seeking to make room for women at the starting line.
“I’ve had to endure critics, doubters, people who teased me—and even laughed—as I ran by in the streets,” said Lainé. “People yell ‘Don’t you have a husband to take care of?’ or ‘Don’t you have some dishes to wash?’”
Lainé started running at the national police training academy. While she ultimately didn’t join the force, she discovered her love for the sport and continued the personal journey to increase her stamina, endurance and speed. She soon discovered that to develop as an elite class runner, she needed a strategy to overcome social obstacles. “I focused only on what was in front of me. I know where I come from, I know what my goal is. I knew where I was going.”
By contrast, Carline Lamour discovered long-distance running very young, in school when she was just 11 years old. This fall she begins her final year of high school, an important achievement in Haiti, where enrollment in primary school is 67 percent and only30 percent of children complete 6th grade. “I am living proof of the positive impact sports can have on education,” she explained.
Both women see that attitudes are starting to change.
Both women see that attitudes are starting to change. “Over time, my neighbors have gotten used to my coming and going in jogging shorts and tanks tops. They have even started cheering me on,” explained Lainé.
“I sense my family takes pride in what I do each morning to train,” said Lamour. “When I run a race, I know they are waiting for me at the finish line and cheering me on and this always inspires me to go further.”
Last June, Lainé and Lamour took their running ambitions to the next level in the Semi-Marathon de la Paix, where they came in first and second, respectively. Ranked as the top two female runners in Haiti, both qualified to join the fundraising effort with Team J/P HRO and run in the 2013 ING New York City Marathon in November.
“It will be a chance for us remind the international community that Haiti still needs their support to rebuild the country and bring positive change in the lives of people across the nation,” said Lamour.
Lainé expects that running in a celebrated international sports event will resonate with Haitians back home and move her closer to another personal goal. “I have a bigger hope: to be a role model and teacher to aspiring female runners in my community.”
The mission at J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO) is simple: To save lives and bring sustainable programs to the Haitian people quickly and effectively. Following the tragic earthquake of 2010, J/P HRO began working immediately to make meaningful and lasting impact in Haiti. The Clinton Foundation has been collaborating with J/P HRO in Haiti since 2010. After the 2010 earthquake, the Clinton Foundation supported J/P HRO with their emergency relief efforts. Since then, the Clinton Foundation has continued to work with J/P HRO by facilitating projects with new partners to further support their relocation and community development work.
J/P HRO and Sean Penn, founder and CEO of J/P HRO, are working with the Fédération Haïtienne d'Athlétisme Amateur to field a team to compete in the 2013 NYC Marathon, which consists of elite Haitian runners, including Bertine Lainé and Carline Lamour, and J/P HRO supporters. J/P HRO’s The Long Run for Haiti campaign showcases Haitian athletes competing at the highest level on the world stage. Learn more about The Long Run for Haitiand how you can support Bertine, Lamour, and the other runners to join the NYC 2013 Marathon.