BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
An ultra-marathon is coming to Artsakh!
I am thrilled to be the first person to bring news of this project, which has been brewing for some three years, to the Armenian community at large!
The race will be run over the course of six days starting August 30, 2020. Its course will mostly follow the “Janapar Trail”. The trail starts in Vardenis (Republic of Armenia) and ends in Hadrut (Republic of Artsakh). The race will end with celebrations in Shoushi. Just a few of the exciting landmarks runners will experience are along the route are Dadivank monastery, Zuar hot springs, the lofty peak of Kachaghakaberd, Dadeeg/Babeeg in Stepanakert, Hoonot Canyon, and many towns and villages where they will meet our hospitable compatriots.
The race is being put on by AdventureCorps, the same organization that puts on Badwater 135, “the world’s toughest footrace” and other grueling running and bicycling races.
Chris Kostman, the organizer, has been working with Telma Ghazarian Altoon and the full support of Artsakh’s government. Telma is an accomplished ultra-marathoner who has run in extreme races around the world. She first ran the Janabarh trail (178 miles) in 2017 in less than two and a half days! Bringing a world-class race to the Armenian highland has been a dream of hers for years. Chris is an accomplished cyclist (setting a records in the 1980s) and has participated in snowshoeing and other extreme races. He has been organizing races for the better part of four decades.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working (to a miniscule degree) with Chris and Telma. Their excitement is contagious, rightly so, every time they discuss this project. It really is worthy of much admiration by Armenians. Participation in this race is capped at 50. These folks will undoubtedly be captivated by Artsakh’s beauty and its people’s warmth and friendliness. They will end up telling their stories to friends, relatives, and their social media outlets. Elite athletes such as these command a lot of respect and will pique others’ curiosity about the almost-unheard-of-place they will be racing in. This kind of publicity is best since it is sincere and comes from trusted sources.
For the cynics out there who may be thinking “what non-Armenian would even be remotely interested in going to Artsakh, much less to run six back-to-back marathons” – I’ve got great news. Formal promotion for the race hasn’t even started yet. It is just posted on AdventureCorps’ website, and already 15 participants have registered from four different countries – Brazil, Norway, United Kingdom, and the US.
Artsakh Ultra is exactly the kind of exposure and business we want to expand in our homeland. This kind of adventure/ecotourism is one of the two best components for the economy there to grow (the other being the information technology sector). It’s not just the cafés and nightlife of Yerevan, nor the castles and churches of our ancestors, and not even the sites of the world’s first winemaking facility nor its oldest shoe that make Armenia attractive, but the glory of its wilds!
Go to the website. Follow the race as more world class runners register. Watch for it next year. Spread the word about it. And, if you, like Telma, are involved in a particular area of activity and know someone like Chris, work with her/him to bring more ecologically friendly, and economically beneficial, activity to Armenia.