A limited number of tourist athletes from around the world, including the United States, will this year be allowed to participate in the Pyongyang Marathon in North Korea on April 13, 2014. This was announced earlier this month.
According to Wikipedia: Pyongyang (평양, Korean pronunciation: [pʰjɔŋjaŋ], literally: Flat Land or Peaceful Land is the capital of North Korea and the largest city in the country.
Registration, which is now closed for 2014, was permitted through various tour agencies, offering packaged group tours, such as Uri Tours in New Jersey. This is the first year “amateur” or recreational (i.e., non-invited professional) athletes are allowed to run the Pyongyang Marathon and to tour parts of North Korea. There is a four-hour limit (which knocks me out of the running….).
The Pyongyang Marathon is officially known as the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, and has been held for 27 years. The course, which is flat, is comprised of four loops. It begins at the Kim Il Sung Stadium and moves on past the Monument to Chinese Soldiers to the Kim Il Sung University area. It then crosses a bridge over the Taedong River to the east of the city and winds along the river bank to the finish in the stadium.
According to Huffington Post, tourism companies reported that they were inundated by requests to sign up for the event, which also includes a half marathon and a 10 kilometer race.
“The opening of the race to recreational runners is in keeping with the North’s ongoing, but sometimes sporadic, effort to earn cash revenue by boosting tourism, usually with well-orchestrated group tours to major arts performances or attractions the North wants to show off.”
“Much of North Korea remains off-limits to foreigners, but Pyongyang, with its broad avenues and ubiquitous monuments, is a showcase city and more accessible than other places in the secretive and isolated country.”
“‘I think a lot of the attraction is the ‘Pyongyang’ part rather than the ‘marathon’ part,’ said Simon Cockerell, a Beijing-based agent for the Koryo Tours travel agency. “A lot of the people going along to take part are interested in simply doing something a bit unusual, something that would cause a bit of cognitive dissonance in friends of theirs when they tell them they ran a marathon in North Korea.”