Taking the marathon route to see North Korea

How do you turn a 9-day holiday into a marathon in one of the world’s most reclusive countries? By signing up to run a race in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, that’s how.

Kim Jong-un likes to keep people out of North Korea

Kim Jong-un likes to keep people out of North Korea Image by petersnoopy / CC BY-SA 2.0

It won’t be cheap – costing from £1,700 – but it gives participants an unrivalled opportunity to see the sights around the capital, Pyongyang.

North Korea's capital, Pyongyang where the marathon will be held next April

North Korea's capital, Pyongyang where the marathon will be held next April Image by Clay Gilliland / CC BY-SA 2.0

Considering that only 5000 tourists get the green light to visit the country every year, this running holiday allows visitors to get up close and personal to a people and place severely restricted at virtually every turn by their dictator leader.

North Korea only allows about 5,000 tourists inside its border on an annual basis

North Korea only allows about 5000 tourists inside its border on an annual basis Image by John Pavelka / CC BY 2.0

The Daily Mirror reports that during the 26-mile race, runners will see the sights in the demilitarised zone along the border with neighbouring South Korea.

Intrepid Travel , the Australian tour firm with strong links to the UK, is behind the unique foray behind the normally hidden borders of North Korea.

Company CEO Michael Edwards said the marathon takes place early on in the trip, which gave people the opportunity to use the remaining week to travel around the country.

The numbers participating from abroad will jump for 650 this year to 1000 for the next race in April, 2016. However runners or their entourage will be banned from using cameras or mobile phones to take pictures of the event.

And visitors will face the prospect of being watched around the clock by soldiers, although last year’s runners report a really warm welcome during the race from the huge crowds supporting the event.

The route to Pyongyang will be via Beijing, while an overnight train ride will take visitors back to the Chinese capital. Official guides and a designated driver will accompany groups at all time during their travel around the country.

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