Slovene Aleš Debeljak Wins the Marathon in North Korea

Photos of Slovenian athletes at the marathon in Pyongyang (DPRK), which has recently appeared on the Internet during the aggravation of international relations with North Korea, seems like a funny joke to many. However, there has not been a sniff of humour.

A few days ago, a group of Slovenian travellers returned from North Korea, who during a tour around the most closed country in the world took part in a marathon in Pyongyang. Moreover, they managed to win! A recreational athlete Aleš Debeljak on a 42-kilometre distance celebrated the victory with the result of 2:49:10. “He received a package and flowers, and unfortunately there were no medals and the anthem,” Nikola Klašnja, the founder and director of the Slovenia’s Shappa Agency, says.

According to him, although North Korea is considered a much-closed country, in fact, anyone can visit it. Half of the six Slovenian travellers went on tour just to participate in the announced marathon in Pyongyang. Nikola Klašnja personally planned one of the routes in such a way that it synchronized with the marathon. To participate in the competition (10, 21 and 42 km races), it was necessary to pay a considerable registration fee: a 42-kilometre race costed 100 euros, a 10-kilometre race—50 euros.

The marathon was held on 9 April at the Kim Il-sung Stadium with a capacity of 50,000 spectators. The competitions were held in a good, athletic atmosphere. Participants of the competition, divided into amateurs and professionals, also tried their hand at the races of 10 and 21 km distances.