BEIJING — Foreigners wanting to compete in the Pyongyang marathon next month can now get ready to pack their running shoes since North Korea has reopened its borders this week after a four-month closing over Ebola fears.
To race in the streets of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, runners will need to sign up through one of the package tours offered by companies based outside the country and will have to fly through China.
One of those companies, Koryo Tours, a longtime British-run operator based in Beijing, sent out a marketing email on Thursday saying that “foreign amateurs” would be allowed to take part in the April 12 race and that the tour company was taking applications until March 16.
“This has been a truly extraordinary period in the history of North Korean travel, and we’d like to genuinely thank all of our tourists for being so understanding during what must have been an extremely frustrating time for you during all the recent uncertainty,” the company said in the email.
The general opening of the border to foreigners again is being welcomed by tour operators like Koryo and tourists who had signed up for various 2015 tour packages, including the marathon. Tours were canceled starting in fall 2014 after North Korean officials barred foreigners from entering their country.
Last spring was the first time that North Korea allowed amateur runners from outside the country to take part in the marathon, and only by joining specific tour groups. The Pyongyang marathon was first held in 1981, with the race open only to men until 1984.