February Coffee Break World Athletics Alessio Punzi

February Coffee Break: World Athletics Alessio Punzi

MEMOSIANS gathered with hosts Marco Mazzi on Wednesday, February 28th to speak with World Athletics Head of Running and Massive Participation, Mr. Alessio Punzi.

After a career starting as an event organizer and working up to Cycling, Mr. Alessio Punzi has been with World Athletics since 2016. He shared he often approaches work thinking: “How are we helping the movement?” World Athletics Head of Running and Massive Participation, Mr. Alessio Punzi MEMOS IOC

A focus on massive participation led the discussion to Marathon and all of its components. Alessio asked us to consider the host city’s residents and piquing their interest in running. And to make sure we considered Marathon history.

From the 1970’s to today, the initial boom of road races like the Marathons we know and love today was an adjustment – no stadiums took a lot of tradition out of the race experience. Part of the IAAF’s role today is helping different races, through their National Associations, to navigate their unique issues, such as lobbying for more road closures for the Jakarta Marathon.

Question and Answer Session

Question from Host Marco Mazzi: “Is it a must to have a Marathon for big cities?”

Answer from Professor Lisa Delpy: Yes, but you need the whole spectrum from kids races to the 5K to the 1/2 marathons to the Marathon. “You can solve many objectives getting locals involved.” She also added that cities must consider the often significant economic boost of a Marathon.

Alessio backed up her point adding the observation – we wouldn’t see Marathons so consistently around the world if they weren’t lucrative.

Question from Host Marco Mazzi: “Is the positive impact just for big cities? Or can this benefit be for those off the beaten path?”

Answer from MEMOSIAN Wedu Motswetla from MEMOS XVIII (EN) Botswana: From my personal experience: last weekend they had a marathon – it’s a small country so this can’t be compared to the New York City Marathon. There was a lot of support this year, its their 30th year doing this event. Participants mostly ran the shorter distances. There were more people (in volume) participating for the social interactions.

Alessio said that tracked with his experience as well. We saw a dip in participation with the pandemic, and that is slowly picking back up. At the same time, we’re seeing continued growth with the sales of running shoes. He reminded us: there are a lot of people running who never do events.

MEMOSIANS, please stay tuned for our next Coffee Break featuring Professor Lisa Delpy.

Have an idea for a Coffee Break? Let us know!