In the past year, a culture of running has been brewing in Armenia, but there is still more work to be done to convince people to get up and get active. That’s where the Yerevan Half-Marathon on October 4 comes in. For Armenia, in particular, it can not only promote a healthy lifestyle—getting people up and out of the cafés—but attract sports tourism to the country.
Anna Sharoyan is looking to start a revolution in Armenia —a revolution of running. Alumna of the Yerevan Summer Internship Program (YSIP) and the New York Summer Internship Program (NYSIP) along with the AGBU-partnered SIVAM network of students and young professionals in Moscow, Anna is organizing the first ever Yerevan Half-Marathon through the streets of the city on October 4.
Anna, who lives in Moscow and works in human resources at the largest bank group in Russia, started running a little over a year ago. Yet she can already see the positive changes it has had on her life and is itching to share her enthusiasm for the sport with Armenians in Armenia.
In our conversation, Anna describes the cultural change running can bring about in the country, meditates on the personal rewards of the sport and shares some of her best memories from her transformative summers with YSIP and NYSIP.
Can you tell me more about the Yerevan Half-Marathon?
The Yerevan Half-Marathon on October 4 will be the first even long-distance running event in Armenia. I hope everyone in Yerevan that day will come to join us. 500 people of all experience levels have already signed up, but we’re looking to turn this marathon into a movement—runners are flying in from Russia and we’re trying to recruit more local Armenians as well.
In the past year, a culture of running has been brewing with the Yerevan Color Run and a handful of charity runs through the city. But there is still more work to be done to convince people to get up and get active. That’s where the Yerevan Half-Marathon comes in. We’re calling it a half-marathon, but it’s really much more than that: there is the traditional 21.1 km run along with a still-challenging 10 km, a 2.1 km for beginners and a 1 km for kids.
What kind of social change do you hope the race will spark?
Running is not nearly as popular in Armenia as it is in the United States, Europe or even Russia, but it has so much to offer. For Armenia, in particular, it can not only promote a healthy lifestyle—getting people up and out of the cafés—but attract sports tourism to the country. We’re hoping that the half-marathon will become an annual event and make Armenia a destination for a new kind of traveler interested in endurance sports. Through this race, we are hoping to draw Armenians into an active running community and connect them to other runners around the world.
What has running taught you about yourself?
It has shown me the power of small steps. When I first started running, I didn’t think I could make it 20 minutes without keeling over. But running challenged my understanding of what I can do. It taught me the discipline to set a goal, train for it and reach it—my first goal was 21.1 kilometers in 7 weeks. Since running is a solitary sport, I learned that it is much more important to be competitive with yourself than with others—and this lesson has made its way into other parts of my life.
I’m not a professional runner and will never be the fastest, but now I can see the good that comes from getting out of my comfort zone and working—slowly but surely—towards a big goal. The best part about running is that you can feel the results right away. If you work hard and put in effort, you can do something you never thought you could do.
What has stayed with you from your YSIP and NYSIP summers?
I can definitely say my YSIP and NYSIP summers have been my best summers yet. I’m grateful to SIVAM for having introduced me to AGBU and all its programs for young adults. It was through SIVAM that I learned about YSIP and NYSIP, which completely changed my way of thinking about the world. I was never the same after these programs, especially after NYSIP. Getting to live in Manhattan and be a New Yorker for two months—I even used to run in Central Park—is an experience I’ll never forget.
Of course, like everyone says, I made lifelong friends and got professional experience on my resume, but it also helped me understand the diversity within the Armenian community. I was born in Armenia and grew up in Russia, but until YSIP and NYSIP, I had never known Armenians from the diaspora. For the first time, I was meeting Armenians from Argentina and Switzerland and learning about the differences in how we understanding Armenian identity.
How would you convince a skeptic to join you at the Yerevan Half-Marathon?
I would repeat the motto we’ve come up with for the race—“Run to Your Personal Victory”—and hope it resonates with them. Running can show us our own strength, both physical and mental, and help us feel like we belong to a global community of like-minded people—and who doesn’t want that.
For more information the Yerevan Half-Marathon and to register, please click here.