Juny François is about as accomplished a runner as you’ll ever meet.

The Miami-based lawyer, who is originally from New York and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, just completed the Tokyo Marathon in March. It was the last of the world's six most prestigious marathons on her list and earned her a Six Star Medal.

She's been running in some form her whole life and used to be a sprinter in track and field. But watching the Boston Marathon during her first year at Harvard, she remembers thinking that she'd never pick up distance running.

“If you had asked me then, would I run a marathon? I mean, I was so impressed by the people, but I definitely would have said, ‘Oh no, you’re crazy, I don’t do long distance,’” she said with a laugh.

Despite that, François ended up running her first marathon a few years later, and she’s been hooked ever since.

Throughout that marathoning career, her family’s home country of Haiti has been a source of inspiration.

This year, as she gets set to run the Boston Marathon for the fourth time, Haiti will be on her mind as the capital of Port-au-Prince faces an unprecedented wave of gang violence.

“I’ve run for Haiti before. I’ve dedicated my runs in the past [to Haiti],” said François, who is using her platform to keep the focus on what's going on in Haiti. “And I will always do things for Haiti, but I have always kind of, at the back of my mind, [been] hoping the day will come that I don’t have to run to raise funds or awareness about a grave situation in Haiti.”

'Is something wrong with her?'

The youngest of 13 brothers and sisters, almost all of whom were born in Haiti, François has abundant memories of visiting Haiti in the 1980s.

A running community, however, is absent from those memories.

One of François’ brothers lives in the mountains of Haiti. When she visits and heads out for a run, she said, the neighborhood gossip mill gets going. Locals want to know: Where is she going? What’s she running away from? Is something wrong with her?

“So, it’s like I’ve got too much time on my hands if I’m just running for exercise,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s very funny because it’s like I’ll hear them saying that in Creole, almost as if they don’t think I can hear them.”

Choosing to run

In addition to running this year's marathon, François has been a guiding force for first-time Boston Marathon runner Valentin Emmanuel, who grew up in Haiti and moved to the U.S. as a teenager. It will be Emmanuel's third marathon ever.

He and François agreed that sports like soccer, cricket and baseball are the big attraction in Haiti, whereas running as a sport is rare.

Emmanuel started running in high school in Indiana after a track coach encouraged him to try out.

“As far as I know, I never encountered a running community in Haiti,” he said. “That’s really something we’re trying to build.”

Emmanuel spoke to GBH via Zoom from Kenya, where he was training. The elevation is high there, so the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” along Boston's course isn’t worrying him too much.

“The hills here, my friend, oh my God,” he said. “I’m almost reaching eight to nine thousand feet in altitude. And these hills are already breaking my heart.”

His training is intense. At 6 a.m., there’s a run. Then 10 a.m. workouts. Then another run later in the afternoon. Those three workouts a day occur throughout the week, except Sunday.

All of this is a down payment toward Valentin’s ultimate goal: representing Haiti in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

First, he’ll have to get from Hopkinton to Copley Square. And he'll carry Haiti with him, he said.

“I’m just gonna continue to use my platform to see change, you know?” he said. “Because our ancestors, they battled, they fought for our independence. And that’s something we must keep going. We can’t be depending on any outside people to do it.”

Thinking about Haiti while running

Stanley Bazile, who will also be at Monday's start line in Hopkinton, earned his Six Star Medal last year when he completed the Tokyo Marathon.

Bazile, who is of Haitian descent, describes Boston as “the unicorn” for runners, given its high standards for qualification and the stature of the race.

Bazile told GBH News that the turmoil facing his family's home country will be with him as he puts his body through the rigors of the 26.2-mile beating runners endure.

“When you're running a marathon, I don't care who you are, I've even heard elites say it, there's gonna be a certain point in a marathon when it gets difficult, right? Where the body and mind start to fight each other,” he said.

That's when he'll remind himself of the people of Haiti.

“And so I will say, 'They don't have the option of quitting, and so I don't have the option of quitting,'” Bazile said. “So I'm just going to keep going and I'll get to the finish line. So, I'll be running with them, be running with my people.”