North Korea announced plans to host its annual marathon in April. Cash prizes are on offer, according to an official statement. File Photo by KCNA
North Korea may be under heavy sanctions, but that hasn't stopped Pyongyang from forging ahead with plans to hold its annual Mangyongdae Prize Marathon on April 9.
In a possible bid to encourage attendance, North Korea has announced a top prize of $10,000, in both men's and women's divisions, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
The second prize is an award of $7,000, and $3,000 is to be conferred to the third-place winner, according to the North Korean website Sports in the DPRK.
In its professional runners category, North Korea states male athletes must have a marathon record of 2 hours and 16 minutes or better, and women must hold a record of completing a marathon at or under 2 hours and 38 minutes.
Male runners who complete the 26-mile race in 2 hours and 9 minutes, and women who finish in 2 hours and 25 minutes are each to be awarded an additional $3,000.
The Mangyongdae Prize Marathon began to be held in 1981, to commemorate Kim Il Sung's 69th birthday.
In 2015, North Korea banned foreign runners from participating in the marathon, out of fear the participants would bring in the Ebola epidemic.
The ban was eventually lifted and runners from more than 30 countries turned out for the event.
International sanctions and Pyongyang's growing nuclear weapons program have also not stopped travelers from visiting the country.
Some Europe-based travel agencies have reported bookings are up since the adoption of the latest sanctions resolution in November.