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[Guardian] Tourists line up to run North Korea’s marathon

April 10, 2015
Young North Korean runners rest after finishing their part of the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon in 2014. (David Guttenfelder/AP)

Young North Korean runners rest after finishing their part of the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon in 2014. (David Guttenfelder/AP)

[THE GUARDIAN]

A dedicated group of runners is gearing up for one of the most unusual races in the calendar: a marathon, half marathon or 10K run on the streets of Pyongyang.

For the second year in a row, tourists have been permitted to line up in the race, officially known as the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon – after Kim il-Sung’s birthplace, against professional athletes from North Korea. The event is recognised on the International Association of Athletics Federation’s circuit.

Those in training were unsure whether they’d be able to run at all until a month ago. In February the North Korean government said that foreign runners were banned due to fears they would spread Ebola virus – a concern which had closed the country’s border since October last year.

Then a few weeks later the border reopened, the marathon was back on and the tour companies creaked back into action.

Koryo Tours, the agency that takes the majority of tourists to North Korea every year, said it had been kept in the dark about the border decision until the very last minute.

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