Runners Go the Marathon Distance for Genocide


BOSTON, Mass.—Anytime you can catch millions of people paying attention to the genocide mission, you’ve completed a successful marathon—whether you finished first, last, or somewhere in between.

 Runners hit the Boston Marathon trail for the Armenian Genocide. (Photo by Jim Walker/ Conventures, Inc.)
Runners hit the Boston Marathon trail for the Armenian Genocide. (Photo by Jim Walker/ Conventures, Inc.)

And that’s precisely what a group of more than 20 runners accomplished while participating in the Boston Marathon on April 20.

With a huge Armenian flag in their midst, they completed the 119th run with more than 26 miles at their feet. As millions caught their attention on the trail and in the TV world, they honored the history and legacy of the Armenian Genocide in this centennial year.

The contingent wore a specially-designed emblem on race day calling attention to the genocide while saluting how Armenians have not only survived but thrived in the generations that have followed.

The program was coordinated by the Knights of Vartan, Ararat Lodge of Cambridge.

“While planning events for the commemoration of this Centennial on April 24, it occurred to us that the Boston Marathon was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness,” said Lexington’s Ron Sahatjian, one of the organizers. “The response was most gratifying.”

Sahatjian started looking for runners of Armenian descent who were taking on the marathon this spring. He scored through the 30,000-plus names of runners looking for those ending with the traditional Armenian “ian” and made contact with them—a daunting task indeed that met with fruitful results and a coterie of missionaries who would stop at nothing for their heritage.

Through e-mails, briefs in various regional and ethnic papers, callouts on Facebook, and word of mouth, the marathon runners started to appear.

They included runners from Vancouver and California, a state trooper from Rhode Island, a Harvard University law student, along with Armenian and non-Armenian supporters.

More than 20 runners eventually signed on, all willing to give up precious space on their running shirts to wear a 3-inch-by-8-inch emblem to remind people not to forget the 1.5 million victims killed a hundred years ago.

A compelling photo at the finish line showed runners Apo Ashjian and Sarkis Chekijian coming across with the red, blue and orange flag surrounded by a stream of other participants.

Four days later, Ashjian took his familiar place with the Sayat Nova Dance Ensemble while performing at Heritage Park in Boston during the commemoration. Ashjian is founder, director and choreographer of the popular troupe which is celebrating its 29th year.

Other runners included: Shant Hagopian (Los Angeles, Calif.), Tommy Tomasian (South Boston), Mary Demers (Uxbridge), Talia LaPointe (Jefferson), Roupen Bastajian (Greenville, R.I.), Steven Najarian (Belmont), Cera Adams (Brighton), Jennifer Sahatjian (Woburn), Jenny Konjoian (Andover), and Suzie Oliviera (Watertown).

Also, Marie Castle (Danvers), Laurie Nahigian (Belmont), Mike Donabedian (Vancouver, Wash.), Christine Donabedian (Vancouver, Canada), Pat Lanagan (Newton), Mike Hovagimian (Hopkinton), and Debbie Gilligan (Lowell).



Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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