North Korea opens up annual marathon to foreigners
People walk past a roadside billboard in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sunday, June 16, 2013. North Korea has opened up its marathon to foreigners for the first time, taking place in Pyongyang on April 13. (AP / Alexander Yuan)
Published Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:00AM EDT
For the first time in its 27-year history, the world’s most hermetically sealed country will allow foreigners to hit the pavement in North Korea’s annual marathon race.
About 200 foreigners have signed up to run alongside likeminded North Korean runners April 13 at the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon in Pyongyang, reports Associated Press, where their 42.2 km route will take them past major landmarks like the Kim Il Sung Stadium, Friendship Tower, Arch of Triumph and Chongryon Suspension Bridge.
While elite runners have been invited to participate in years past, the 2014 edition has been opened to recreational runners of any nationality.
Previously, runners had to be able to complete a marathon in about 2h30m for men and women, making it unattainable for even the best recreational runners.
In addition to the marathon, the event includes a half-marathon race and 10km course.
Runners who fail to finish the marathon in four hours, however, will be escorted back to the stadium, reports the AP.
This year’s participants had to apply for visas through group tours.
Opening up the marathon to foreigners is the latest in a string of moves aimed at opening up the country to more tourists and their pocketbooks.
This winter, the country opened the proverbial doors to its Masik Pass Skiing Grounds, billed as a luxury ski resort.
It’s also been reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un plans to turn the port city of Wonsan into a beach resort.