Special for the Armenian Weekly
Yerevan is not a city of runners. Its hilly landscapes, weathered pavements, and congested streets can discourage all but the most devoted runner, and enthusiasm for the sport remains limited among the local population. For the second year in a row, the Yerevan Half Marathon is trying to change that.
The event is the brainchild of two Muscovite Armenians—Anahit Adamyan and Anna Sharoyan—who wanted to encourage runners of all ages and levels in Armenia. On Oct. 16, four different distances were available to participants: in addition to the half marathon of 21.1 kilometers (13.1 miles), the organizers held a one-kilometer race for children as well as five and ten-kilometer races for those interested in a shorter run.
Those who braved the full distance encountered a scenic but challenging course winding through the iconic streets of the city center down to the rugged paths of the Hrazdan Gorge. To reach the finish, runners tackled a steep hill leading from the gorge to the Victory Bridge and were treated to a truly rare experience—the chance to traverse a peaceful Republic Square, free of the buzz and bustle usually surging in from neighboring streets.
Partnering with local businesses and the municipal government, Adamyan and Sharoyan pulled together an event that has placed Yerevan on the international running map. Some 2,000 runners from more than 35 countries—Georgia, Iran, and Russia among the most prominent—took to the city’s streets this year. Unlike in 2015, runners from Armenia outnumbered international participants. This growth is helping the organizers confront one of their toughest challenges—generating local support and enthusiasm for the event. “There is no established fan base for the sport,” said Sharoyan, “and this makes it more difficult to attract newcomers.”
Community engagement and a thorough media campaign have helped with this obstacle. Spectators lined the start and finish area on race day, and approximately 100 volunteers were part of the complex mechanics of the event, supporting runners at every stage from registration to post-race recovery. In the months leading up to the race, beginners had the benefit of a free training club as well as advice, encouragement, and meet-and-greets with other participants.
So, is there a full marathon in the works for Yerevan? “Everyone wants to know,” says Sharoyan. The city’s small size is the main challenge—barring repetitive loops, few available routes are both long enough and logistically suitable.
But as interest in running grows in Armenia, a full marathon is not too distant of a goal.