Pyongyang Marathon: The
Closest Experience to
Being in the Olympics

Running into a stadium of over 50,000 people all cheering you on? This is the Pyongyang Marathon. The closest thing you’ll (probably) ever get to participating in the Olympic Games.

Imagine pinning on your running bib outside an Olympic-size stadium, doing your stretches and warming up to the sound of anticipating cheers from within, and eventually walking into a stadium of 50,000 excited people cheering you on as you line up to begin your race.

This is the Pyongyang Marathon.

The closest thing you’ll (probably) ever get to participating in the Olympic Games.

And this is only the beginning.

Pyongyang Marathon: Starting the run at the Arch of Triumph outside Kim Il Sung Stadium

What’s it like to Run the Pyongyang Marathon?

Your Pyongyang Marathon experience begins in Kim Il Sung Stadium. The stadium is located in the centre of Pyongyang, North Korea (DPRK). This is one of Pyongyang’s biggest stadiums with a seat capacity of 50,000 and the site where President Kim Il Sung made his first speech in 1945. It has since been renovated and today is used mainly for sporting events.

After you enter the stadium, you will be separated into different categories according to your distance. You will then gather with your fellow runners and line up for your turn to begin your Pyongyang Marathon race. As you walk around the stadium to your starting point, you will be surrounded by 10s of thousands (around 50,000 to be exact) of local Koreans all cheering you on and getting you motivated for your race.

Pyongyang Marathon: Waiting to enter the stadium and trying to keep warm!
Pyongyang Marathon: Getting ready to set off! (Okay, now you all know I only did 10km...)

Wait in excited anticipation with the rest of your race category as you get yourself warmed up and ready to go. When it’s your turn to go, you will be lined up, the gun will fire, and… off you go! Set off out of the Kim Il Sung stadium with hundreds of local Koreans and other foreigners all competing to be the first to make it back.

The first few minutes of your run you’ll still be able to hear the cheering from Kim Il Sung stadium and be surrounded by a good few runners you began with. As different levels begin to disperse out, you’ll find that there are very few people around you whilst you carry on your run through the streets of Pyongyang. (Or maybe I just got left behind?). The marathon route is clearly signposted, so it’s hard to go off track. Plus, there are local Koreans lining the roads as you go there to cheer everyone on, and even give the odd high-five as you go.

Pyongyang Marathon: Running through the streets of Pyongyang is very liberating!

There are water stalls that you can get refreshment on as you go.

As you run, you will pass important landmarks such as the Arch of Triumph and Kim Il Sung square.

Depending on your distance, the turn-back point will be different. It is clearly signposted where you should turn back depending on the distance you’re running. When you see the mark for your distance, turn back by moving to the other side of the track on the road, and make your way back to Kim Il Sung stadium!

As you approach the end of your run, the Kim Il Sung stadium will begin to come into view. The road up to the entrance to the Kim Il Sung stadium is the last stretch before you enter the stadium and finish your race. You will power through the massive entrance and be immediately greeted with thousands and thousands of people cheering you on as you pass them to finish your race on the other side of the stadium. If you have enough energy left, interact with the crowd to get them going even more!

Pyongyang Marathon: The entrance to Kim Il Sung Stadium and the finish line in sight...!

Through the entrance to Kim Il Sung stadium, run around the last lap, aaaand you’re across the finish line!

Well done!

Your journey doesn’t end as you cross the finish line, however, as you still have a few steps to go to make it to the Pyongyang Marathon market stalls located just in front of the Kim Il Sung Stadium for a well-deserved pint of North Korea’s finest draft beer (the cheapest pint around!) or refreshing bottle of water. You can also choose to grab a chair in the stadium and spectate your fellow runners as they cross the finish line.

Pyongyang Marathon: Well deserved post-marathon (/post 10km) beer and BBQ
Pyongyang Marathon: Best BBQ in town!

If you’re a prize winner, it’s back to the stadium for you! After you’ve had a break and a chance to recover, you will head back into Kim Il Sung stadium for the grand prize-giving ceremony. This is given in front of a crowd of 50,000. And it’s pretty cool. So get training if you want your place on the podium!

There are a range of tours to take you to the Pyongyang Marathon, ranging from 2 day to 10 days in North Korea - and everything in-between!

Pyongyang Marathon: Getting ready to present prizes for full marathon
Pyongyang Marathon: Prize ceremony for the full marathon
Pyongyang Marathon: Koreans await their prizes

Why Should I Run the Pyongyang Marathon?

If you’re asking this question, you should probably go back up and read the start of the article.
If you’re still yet to be convinced, there’s plenty of other reasons taking part in the Pyongyang Marathon should be on your bucket list.

Travel to North Korea is an experience in itself. It is a mysterious country that appears frequently in the media, and yet a country that very few really know much about. The best way to understand North Korea is by visiting yourself.
You will find it is an incredibly beautiful country full of lots to do and explore, and the hospitality that you will get from the local North Koreans is second to none! Running the Pyongyang Marathon is a bonus to any North Korea tour.

A variety of distances means that you don’t have to run the full marathon in order to get this great experience! (Thank God). You can choose to run 5k, 10k, half marathon, or full marathon. There is a time limit for each of these distances, but if you’re not a big runner, the city centre of Pyongyang makes for a lovely 5km walk.

Training for a marathon, or any distance run, is a great way to get fit. After all, that was part of most of our New Year’s resolutions, right? What better reason to train than to run in the Pyongyang Marathon! Sometimes we need a bit of motivation to keep us going…

Tours to North Korea are more restrictive than your average tour. It is a regulation that you have North Korean local guides with you throughout your time in the country. Partaking in the Pyongyang Marathon, however, will give you the freedom to explore the streets (as long as you stick to the route!) in peace.
Put those banging tunes on and enjoy the beautiful Pyongyang scenery in solitude as you work your way through North Korea’s capital city with only the other runners trying to catch up to you.

For those wanting to collect marathons around the world, ticking off the Pyongyang Marathon is a must. The Pyongyang Marathon is an International Associations of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Bronze Label road race with Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) certification. It is also officially open to runners with disabilities, such as those using wheelchairs or visually impaired runners.

Truly get off the beaten path and do something different! How many people do you know who’ve run in the Pyongyang Marathon..?

How Can I Run the Pyongyang Marathon?

Easy! This year’s Pyongyang registration date closes on 28th February 2019. All you need to do is pick your Pyongyang Marathon tour and send in your application for the deadline.

Koryo Tours sorts out the rest!

(Apart from the training and getting fit. You need to do that yourself…)

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