The day we came here for! A steady amount of carbohydrates the night before, Michiel had his coffee, handful of almonds and banana (the practiced pre-running food of choice), and was ready for the Pyongyang 1/2 marathon! I was nervous, because his knee was a real issue a few weeks back, and I knew this was such a big test for him to complete, both personally and physically.
There’s always time for a pre-race selfie! Even after the 5am get up!
Our group and guide Una
The day started and finished in the Kim Il Sung stadium, which was filled with thousands of North Koreans, cheering us in, whilst we did a lap of honour.
Walking around, it was so special, but so weird. Everyone responded to everything we did, cheers, claps, waves, smiles – like we were famous. I wondered how these people got a seat in here? A chosen few? A lottery? Paid for? It was all rehearsed of course. The lap was very overwhelming, & the start line was in sight.
The North Korean professionals who were running, were all lined perfectly. Us? Not so much..
During the run, there were many people lining the streets, wanting to wave at us, say ‘hello’, and high five as we ran past. Some kms, total silence, with just a faint sound of Korean music playing in the background, an eerie experience.
Some kms, there were people ready and waiting to cheer for us, which also felt very rehearsed. Many soldiers lined the track, which we were told strictly no photographs of. There were a lot of children, who seemed excited just to touch my hand.
It was the most surreal run I have completed, and between the mental talks with myself, like every other run to keep going, I also kept getting the daunting realisation of where I was. We were so strange to these people, and they were happy to see us, but seemed nervous in some ways too. I wonder how this day, and us being there was portrayed to them.
Our guide told us that the North Korean people understand us wanting to experience their great country, because they are told we want to learn from them, and their way of living.
The best part of the day for me was joining Michiel for his ‘lap of honour’ at the end. Towards the last leg, he was noticeably tired, and needed a pep talk and a push – thats where I come in!
Here he comes!
Another trip around the stadium, to cheering people. It was such a great achievement for Michiel. He had also NEVER exercised before last year, and now he completes things like this, in Pyongyang! Very proud moment as a trainer to accompany him on his final lap, and only a small taste of what we will feel when he crosses the Ironman finish line!
A well deserved first beer in North Korea, whilst we watch the others!