Written by Zoe Stephens
Unknown to many, foreigners can take part in the Pyongyang marathon in North Korea and run around the streets of the capital city, finishing off in the impressive Kim Il Sung stadium.
So, here’s 10 reasons why you shouldn’t miss it.
1. Catch a domestic flight in North Korea
Be one of very few tourists to experience a domestic flight on North Korean airline Air Koryo, flying from the North Korean border town of Sinuiju to Pyongyang on an Antonov 24. These 44-seater Soviet-era planes are chartered by us and are a unique travel experience in itself for the budding flight geeks out there.
2. Walk into a stadium of 50,000 screaming Koreans
If you thought touching down in Pyongyang was a surreal experience, wait until you’re gearing up to walk into Kim Il Sung Stadium, listening in anticipation to the growing roar of 50,000 Korean spectators cheering inside. After the opening ceremony, participants walk one lap, waving to the packed-out stadium filled to the brim with colour-coded Koreans, cheering on the local and visiting marathon participants alike. A truly unreal experience and likely the closest thing any amateur athlete can get to the feeling of competing in the Olympics or major sporting event.
3. Run through the streets of Pyongyang
Once the marathon kicks off you’ll be out into the streets of Pyongyang. The marathon circuit and streets are lined with locals Pyongyangites out to watch the race with their friends and family, more than willing to hand out high fives of encouragement to runners. Much like our bicycle tour, there’s something unreal about running through the streets of Pyongyang and getting a whole new perspective to the city, off the tour bus. With the option to compete in the full marathon, half marathon, 10km or 5km, the option to either seriously compete or take a leisurely stroll through the streets with your camera at the ready to snap some great shots of local life is entirely up to you.
4. Watch a local match of football
If you’ve ever wanted to watch a game of local football in North Korea, this is your chance. Local league teams play against each other in the middle of Kim Il Sung Stadium for spectators to watch while marathon runners enter the stadium. Runners with a timely finish will also get to watch the game over a refreshing, local Taedonggang beer from the grandstands.
5. Buy a DPRK tracksuit
Located in the sporting district of Pyongyang and surrounded by a golf course and multiple sporting stadiums, you’ll be staying at the Sosan Hotel during your stay for the Pyongyang Marathon. Look out for the official DPRK sports tracksuits in the Sosan’s gift store, one of the must-have and intrinsically DPRK-souvenirs available. Not to mention, you’ll be looking like a boss when strolling around Pyongyang in your new gear. These sell out very quickly, so get in early.
6. Win big and stand on the podium in front of 50,000 spectators
With our very own YPT traveller taking out the first place in the amateur full marathon race in 2017, make your glory lap up to the podium in the centre of the stadium to be presented with your medal and a congratulatory bouquet of flowers in front of 50,000 cheering spectators.
7. Cool off with the locals at Munsu Water Park
There’s no better way to cool off post-marathon than to head to Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang for a relaxing spa, sauna or massage. With outdoor and indoor waterslides available, this is a great opportunity to hang out with locals enjoying the holiday and a great opportunity to pick up a kitsch, 50’s style bathing suit. For those not interested swimming, there’s multiple coffee shops, bars, billiards and a hair salon or barber for those looking for their new “summer DPRK look.”
8. Extend and participate in a mass dance during Day of the Sun celebrations
With the Pyongyang Marathon taking place one week before the national holiday of President Kim Il Sung’s Birthday, better known as the Day of the Sun, this is an incredible time to be in Pyongyang. With special celebrations happening around the city, last year saw a massive military parade for Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday, as well as special music and arts performances and iconic mass dance celebrations happening around the city, which you can even participate in yourself.
9. Teach an impromptu English lesson in Pyongsong
For those extending their marathon tour, you’ll be heading to Pyongsong, the rarely visited satellite city of Pyongyang. You’ll get to visit Mother Kim Jong Suk Middle School Number 1 where you can meet English students, not only giving them a fantastic opportunity to practice their English with you, but for you to learn and ask questions about their lives as young people in the DPRK. Any budding teachers can also teach an impromptu class too!
10. One of our most extensive Pyongyang and DMZ tours
We’ll also be taking a day trip down to Kaesong, Sariwon and the DMZ to see one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world. Extended tours will also head to the infamous International Friendship Museum in Mt. Myohyang, the east coast city of Nampo and all of the must-see Pyongyang sites, with as many local experiences possible. Sound good? Check out our extensive list of marathon tours, bookings available and filling fast!
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