Pyongyang Marathon Race Report
Pyongyang Marathon Race Report
JD (above, on the left with brother Tom on the right) is a long time friend of The Running Company and former employee at the Geelong store. He visited Julian and Bri in Ballarat a few months ago with an exciting plan to run a marathon in North Korea in April. He put together a short race report below.
My brother had run the race (and won it) last year and gave me a late call in February to invite (and pay!) for me to run a marathon in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). He had said it was the best marathon experience he had among Japan, Boston, New York and Berlin. Why? Because it starts and finishes in a stadium with 50000 spectators and runs through the streets of an amazing, but unusual, city with a very different culture.
North Korea is a different country. It is a nation full of very beautiful people who love their country but they don’t have much contact with the outside world (no internet or mobile networks) and their socialist ideology is very different from what westerners are used to. An example is our race day attire had to close to absent of any logos or branding. These cultural contrasts make this such a unique trip.
After only a few weeks of training, a new set of shoes from The Running Company team and madly trying to get visas and forms complete through the government’s official tour group, Koryo Tours I found myself flying to one of the most unusual marathon sites in the world. There are some very unique experiences to be had in North Korea. For instance, anybody with a book or novel who entered the country had to have it read over by an english interpreter at customs. This took up to an hour!
The 10k, 21k and 42k races saw 1800 athletes compete. The majority were Chinese and DPRK elite runners along with other athletes from around the world. There were no Korean amateur or hobby joggers from what I could tell. I don’t think running is looked at as anything outside an elite sport in North Korea. We walked a welcoming lap of the track (that for some reason proudly displayed the Olympic Rings, even though nobody can recall a Pyongyang Olympics), being presented to the crowd and government officials before starting out on the out and back course through the city streets. We passed by some amazing Korean War monuments and modern architecture along with friendly spectators keen to see the guests in their country.
While the heat and headwind on the return made for a tough run the highlight was to enter a full stadium and complete a lap of the track. It’s hard to imagine that the 50,000 spectators were there out
of their own interest but lets just pretend they were.
That was a once in a lifetime marathon experience! If you ever want a marathon adventure and to experience a very different culture, then this is your race. A big thanks to my little brother for the trip.
Mega thanks to Julian and Bri and The Running Company for their advice and support in getting me across the finish line!