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Kilometers for Kim

I am always drawn to offbeat stories, throw in a running aspect and I’m all in!
The Kim in question isn’t Kim Kardasian but Kim Jung-Un the ‘Dear Leader’ of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) aka North Korea.
And no, this isn’t a new charity bib program (but maybe it is).
For those of you that don’t qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon perhaps you are interested in the Pyongyang Marathon? The running of Boston is April 20th, Pyongyang April 12th.
Not surprisingly in the history of the marathon is classic North Korean.
The marathon has been in existence since 1981. In its history according to Wikipedia:
It was not held 6 years.
Five of the years it’s unknown who won.
In the last 14 years, on the female side, a North Korean woman has won every time (such a surprise). The North Korean men have only won 7 out of 14, but hold the course record (2:10:50).
This might be one of the race’s that beats the Boilermaker for spectator participation (and there aren’t many like that).
The marathon begins and ends at Kim Ill Sung Stadium with 50,000 folks in the seats.
Likewise, expect a great spectator presence along the entire course; there’s something about a guy who routinely throws his people in work camps to get the crowd out.
If you aren’t up to running a full marathon a half marathon and 10k are also available.
Interesting time limits, for the marathon and half marathon, 4 hours; for the 10k 2 hours.
Although this is a relatively flat course, it means you need to run an average pace of slightly over a 9 minute mile every one of the 26 (and .2) miles to beat the clock cutoff. However, run the half marathon (and no, running a marathon is not just 2 half marathons; ask someone what mile 18 feels like) and you are allowed 18 minutes- only in North Korea!
The only way to sign up for the race is to go through a travel agency that includes either a 4 or 8 day tour.
The itinerary includes a fascinating tour of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (where you will learn from your’ impartial’ guides that the Americans and South Koreans actually started the Korean War and the North Koreans won).
Expect a tour of the USS Pueblo, captured in 1968.
The do’s and don’ts are an absolute hoot- a few examples.
-Do Behave with respect to the regime and more importantly to its leaders, this is crucial for a good relation with the tour guides.
-Don’t insult the leaders publicly, this might not only get you in trouble but it will for sure ruin your relationship with the guides who are the gatekeepers of your visit.
-Do take some luxury goods (cigarettes, shampoo (a luxury item?), cosmetics, etc.) to present as gifts to the guides as gratitude upon arrival. Tip your tour guides and drivers at the end of the trip.
Don’t Go to North Korea if you are a journalist or a photographer, this can seriously mean trouble for you and your guides.
This is the second year the DPRK is actively promoting foreign participation in their marathon. It certainly feels like a way for them to get some foreign currency in their coffers.
Finally it has been announced that every foreigner arriving, regardless of nationality, must be quarantined for 21 days due to Ebola fears.
Again, only in North Korea!

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