A year after a foreign competitor was awarded the victory, native son Pak Chol triumphed in the Pyongyang marathon on Sunday.
Park finished with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes and 26 seconds, the Associated Press reported. Last year, the event – officially known as the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon – saw a razor-thin finish between Oleksandr Matviychuk of Ukraine and a North Korean runner in which the victory was, as a sporting gesture, awarded to the visiting athlete.
This year North Korean competitors swept the competition, as on the women’s side Kim Hye Gyong, who finished with a time of 2:27:04, joined Pak in the winner’s circle. Kim’s twin sister, Kim Hye Song, finished second in the female competition.
The International Association of Athletics Federation sanctions the annual event, now in its 27th year, as a bronze-label event on par with the marathons in Lodz, Nagano and Beirut. The London Marathon, taking place the same day, is an example of a gold-label event.
This year’s event was notable in that it was opened for the first time to foreign amateur runners. The organizers cited a desire to showcase a grander event this year in the lead-up to the late national founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15, though more foreign participants would also be in keeping with the regime’s ongoing plan to acquire more foreign currency.
This year’s race attracted 225 amateur runners. While tourism agencies told AP they were surprised by the number of applicants, they noted that most participated for the sake of seeing the North’s capital more than participating in the race.
Organizers said that runners from 27 countries participated.
Picture: Uri Tours, Flickr Creative Commons