The Haiti humanitarian group for Hollywood actor Sean Penn announced Friday that it will sponsor five Haitian runners so they can compete in the New York City Marathon in November.
Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization will accept the top three men and two women finishers in a rare half-marathon that will wind through the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Sunday.
Ron Baldwin, executive director of J/P HRO, said the decision to sponsor Haitian runners in the world’s largest marathon was inspired in part by an Associated Press story. The January report featured a Haitian distance runner named Astrel Clovis who faces numerous obstacles as he runs through the hilly streets of Port-au-Prince three years after the Jan. 12 earthquake devastated the capital.
“It’s an inspiring story,” Baldwin said of Clovis. “After the earthquake, he’s running. He’s self-training, and has no support. We decided let’s give that guy a chance. And it grew from there to build a whole team.”
Clovis has a good shot at making the cut for New York. He is a favorite among the more than 50 registered runners participating in Sunday’s government-organized race. He finished second in a marathon in neighboring Dominican Republic in December with a time of 2 hours and 42 minutes.
“This is my dream — to participate in a marathon, out in the world,” Clovis said by phone. “I’m very excited to represent Haiti in the New York marathon, if I qualify.”