Team ChiParks Member Spotlight: Alyssa Mathias

Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan), symbolizing peace and strength, looms above. The giant monument was completed in 1962, replacing a 1950s statue of Joseph Stalin.

Team ChiParks Runner Alyssa Mathias shares
“Why I Run for the Parks”

“Chicago parks are Chicago treasures, and I’m proud to support them.”

A few years ago I was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism, and the doctors said it was imperative that I start exercising regularly. Well, a 5k turned into a 10k (and so on), and now I’m preparing for my third marathon. Running Chicago for the first time, I’m excited to come back to the city that was my home for six years.

Fitting a training schedule into the otherwise sedentary life of a humanities graduate student has been an adventure. This summer, I’m conducting dissertation research in Armenia, a former Soviet republic in the mountainous Caucasus region. Armenian history here goes back millennia, but it’s also very much a crossroads of civilizations, bearing the legacy of Silk Road trade and battles between the Russian, Ottoman, and Persian empires.

Thanks to marathon training, I’m learning a lot about sporting culture and city parks. Armenians have excelled in worldwide sporting events, bringing home medals in gymnastics, weight lifting, wrestling, and chess. You can’t go anywhere in Armenia’s capital Yerevan without seeing a Manchester United Henrikh Mkhitaryan jersey (“Whoa Mkhitaryan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he’s our midfield Armenian” goes the football chant). But the amateur running scene here is small. Instead of running through the streets, I head to the parks. Here you can find a few dedicated runners – possibly training for Yerevan’s third annual half marathon, which will take place in the fall.

I couldn’t be more excited to run the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with Team ChiParks. Every city needs public spaces that can foster health, community, and creativity. When I lived in Chicago, I sang as a volunteer in the Grant Park Chorus and rode my bike along the lakefront path. I remember long conversations about the meaning of life (in a very 18-year-old way) at Promontory Point. Chicago parks are Chicago treasures, and I’m proud to support them!

Running with Team ChiParks supports the Chicago Parks Foundation! For more information about getting involved, click here or contact Erica Acosta at

Armenia’s mountainous countryside provides ample opportunities for long runs. Here is Shikahogh (almost sounds like Chicago!) State Reserve in Southern Armenia.

The Hrazdan river gorge, which cuts through the city, is an excellent place for medium-length runs, provided you are strong enough to resist the invitations of jovial evening picnickers enjoying “khorovats” (barbecue) and vodka!

For a short run, mornings in the Soviet-era Victory Park (Haght-anak zbosaygi) are perfect. The park is part green space, part carnival, part history museum, and part memorial to those who fought against Nazi Germany in World War II.


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