Khatchadourian Becomes Goodwill Ambassador to Promote the First Yerevan Marathon
Eleven countries, 500 towns and cities, 4,550 kilometers and an empowering message from mountaineer Ara Khatchadourian: peace and inspiration for “young people from 5 to 105” to turn their dreams into reality. Khatchadourian himself fulfilled yet another dream, as he set out from Marseille on April 7 and reached Yerevan 105 days later, having run the equivalent of one marathon every day.
He arrived in Armenia via Georgia marking his first stop in the city of Gyumri, where he was greeted by provincial and city officials on July 18. Three days later, Khatchadourian – accompanied by around two dozen running enthusiasts, including members of the Arm Marathon Foundation, TriClub Yerevan and the French ambassador – ran the final six kilometers of his incredible journey, crossing the finish line in Yerevan. In the meantime, Deputy Minister of Diaspora Aramayis Grigoryan, media and a crowd of supporters gathered at Republic Square to give Khatchadourian a heartfelt welcome. The emotional welcome culminated with a dazzling performance on the traditional dhol by the Armenner Drumming Ensemble comprising students of the AGBU Children’s Center in Nork.
“Running is not only a physical achievement, but a human achievement. To run and cross borders with such universal principles is symbolic. We can be inspired by Ara, even if we don’t run all the distance he did,” French Ambassador Jonathan Lacôte said.
For Khatchadourian, this athletic challenge bears a higher meaning—promoting peace through sports and not only. “This is a run for peace for the whole world. Over the past century alone, 170 million people have died in wars and massacres. My grandmother went through the Armenian Genocide. My mom and dad experienced the Second World War. I grew up during war in Lebanon. The cycle has to stop,” Khatchadourian said. “My principle is to transmit values other than violence and to tell people that, through work, it is possible to achieve goals together. I visit schools and tell students that if they have dreams, they can be realized – but it takes work. Without making an effort, it is impossible to achieve what you desire.”
This achievement has propelled Khatchadourian into a new commitment: the Bridge for CSOs project’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Arm Marathon Foundation which would host the first-ever Yerevan Marathon in October 2018. A capacity-building project for Armenian civil society, Bridge for CSOs—funded by the European Union and implemented by AGBU Armenia — has this time linked a diaspora sports talent to a local non-governmental organization to advance a major undertaking. In his new role, Khatchadourian will help promote Yerevan Marathon and continue to inspire sports enthusiasts to work together for the common good.
“We intend to bring together not only runners in Armenia, but Armenians all over the world. So, it is with great pride that we welcome a man who inspires so much with his example to represent us,” executive director of the Arm Marathon Foundation Sona Nahapetyan said. “We aim to encourage health in society, not only through an annual marathon, but also with other running events throughout the year, also directing our revenue toward charitable projects. Running brings people together – people who have never met, who have nothing in common, suddenly unite and run together. Harnessing that kind of enthusiasm and inspiration for the sake of some common project creates a culture of public service.”
Throughout his incredible run, Khatchadourian reached out and inspired many. He made visits along the way, including to a French school in Serbia, as well as to AGBU Plovdiv and AGBU Sofia communities. “Each country had its own beauty,” he said. “I was received very well everywhere. In Greece, the soldiers greeted me at the border and the next day, they accompanied me until the Turkish frontier. I also had an excellent welcome in Gyumri, where a police car came to escort me all the way to Vartanants Square.”
A consummate athlete driven to push himself to the limits, Lebanon-born Ara Khatchadourian moved to France in 1983 and at the age of 40, he began exploring mountaineering. His list of successful climbs includes Mt. Ararat, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Everest, where he displayed the Armenian flag when he reached the summit in 2016. His long-time friend and supporter, Alain Boyadjian, of Marseille, made a poignant observation on his admirable past and current achievements, “Everest was a vertical climb while this run covered almost the same distance horizontally, thereby forming a cross.”
Khatchadourian refers to himself as a citizen of the world. But he does not have only himself in mind. “We are all citizens of the world. Being Armenian is secondary, being Christian is secondary, being born in Lebanon is secondary, living in France is secondary. But above all, in order to say that we are all equal, that we are all born on the same soil, we must say to each one of us – from wherever we may be – we are citizens of the world,” he said. “France accepted me, Marseille adopted me, while Yerevan is the motherland. I wanted to run from the city of my adoption to the city of my roots.”
Established in 1906, AGBU (www.agbu.org) is the world's largest non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of some 500,000 Armenians around the world.
For more information about AGBU and its worldwide programs, please visit www.agbu.org