The Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), representing 435 of the world’s best distance races across 114 countries, including the Athens, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York & Tokyo Marathons held its 11th AIMS Marathon Symposium today (11 November 2017) in Athens, Greece.

The Symposium was arranged in collaboration with SEGAS (the Hellenic Athletics Federation) and ‘Athens Marathon. The Authentic.’ and has been held annually since 2007. 

AIMS would like to thank our partners and sponsors, in particular the ‘Region of Attica’ as co-organiser of the Symposium and the ‘Greek National Tourism Organisation’ and ‘Athens International Airport’ as official sponsors for all their help and support.

The theme of the 2017 Symposium was “Developing your race through the development of the running market in your region”

Attendees heard from Paco Borao, AIMS President and Race Director of Marathon/Half Marathon Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP. Mr. Borao talked with the Symposium about the impressive development of running in Valencia, Spain where they have built the ‘Valencia City of Running’ brand as ‘the best destination to visit for running’ and making ‘Valencia an amusement park for runners’. The City of Valencia has built a permanent 5k track that now sees 15-20,000 runners using it every week. Mr. Borao summed up the theme of the speakers at the symposium that ‘building successful events comes from building and maintaining meaningful communication and engagement with runners throughout the year’.

Makis Asimakopoulos, Ph.D., General Manager "Athens Marathon. The Authentic". Talked about the importance of developing a ‘running culture’ and identifying and promoting your race’s unique selling point: ‘USP’. Under the brand ‘Run Greece’ from a starting point of 15,000 runners, a Greek running community of over 215,000 runners has been developed. Impressively during a time of financial crisis in Greece a sponsorship partner programme of over 2 million Euros has been created covering a wide range of events which has been invested in developing the health of the nation through athletics and in particular running.

Sašo Belovski, Business Development Director at RunCzech the organisers of the world-famous Prague Marathon in the Czech Republic talked about how they have managed to build from a race of 958 runners to a running community of 91,300 people, broadcasting into 715 million homes. A large part of that success has been creating a loyalty programme that sees runners access a range of benefits. RunCzech have measured eight hundred 5-kilometre courses around the Czech Republic and provide 40 coaches to encourage people to run throughout the country.

Elana Meyer, Ambassador of Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and Silver Medal winner in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic 10,000m race spoke to the world’s top race directors about the Cape Town ‘Run4change’ programme built on 5 pillars: Charity; Health; Sustainability; Development; Peace. These are then linked to the 17 development goals of the United Nations. Their runners have paid for 241 trees as part of the race’s impressive green policy helping people run, improve their health and contribute to the development of their cities and country. Elena quoted that the race’s inspiration comes from late Nelson Mandela who said, ‘sport can create hope where once there was only despair.’

Each year a candle is lit on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was held in Prison, and then from that a torch is lit and carried to Cape Town to celebrate the start of the marathon.

Athens Centre of World Running

It was announced that the headquarters of The Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS) will continue to be based, appropriately, in Athens, the home of the marathon, for many years to come (the new agreement is for an initial term of 5 years). The offices are based at Spyros Louis Avenue (named after Spiridon "Spyros" Louis who won the first Olympic marathon gold medal at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece) at the OACA Olympic Centre.

The new agreement was signed between Paco Borao President of AIMS and Greek Deputy Minister of Sports Giorgos Vassiliadis and Aristeidis Kouris President of Athens Olympic Center “Spiros Louis” (O.A.K.A.).

AIMS President Paco Borao commented: ‘AIMS is delighted to continue having our Headquarters based in the unique, historical and legendary city of Athens, Greece. To be based in the home of the marathon where the event originated over 2,500 years ago with the legendary run of soldier runner Pheidippides from the battle of Marathon to Athens is something historical and very special. Also, for our offices to be based in ‘Spyros Louis Avenue’, the winner of the first Olympic marathon makes a unique and historical link. As it was once said ‘habits create traditions and traditions create identities’. We are delighted to continue the DNA of the marathon in its spiritual home: Greece.

The running world to gather in Tallinn, Estonia

The 22nd AIMS World Congress will be staged in Tallinn, Estonia from the 6-9 September 2018.