Run Day Monday: DMZ International Peace Marathon

Race review: half marathon

Cheorwon

Cheorwon – Worker’s Party office

Course information link here

This annual event held in the town of Cheorwon, formerly a north Korean town, attracts surprisingly few international visitors for such a lovely race in an iconic location. Held at the start of September each year, this race is the perfect start to the autumn race season. Spend all summer training in 30° heat and a run in the low twenties is suddenly a doddle!

If you don’t speak Korean, registration can be started by phone and completed via email and is a simple process. I managed to screw up the address for my race bib (and complementary 3kg bag of delicious Cheorwon rice) and the booking group went to great lengths to help me resolve the problem in the nick of time. They also organised shuttle buses to and from a variety of locations around Seoul for an extra 10,000 won, which was a bargain as the bus ticket one way costs the same or a little more. Having said that, Cheorwon is a good couple of hours into the countryside, so several runners from my running group went up the night before to stay in a small pension. It still meant an early start, but much more manageable than catching the shuttle at 5:20am!

This was my first half marathon, and my first race in about six years, but I’ve taken it seriously and been training since late June, upping my distances from my regular 10km Sunday runs with shorter runs in the week, to my longest ever run a week before the race at 27km, and weekly totals of over 45km. The schedule was tough but never too much, and it paid dividends.

The goal was 2hrs 6mins – I figured an average of a 6 minute kilometre was achievable and by no means sloppy. The dream was under 2 hours. I hadn’t managed to achieve this in any of my training runs, but I’d come close enough to smell it and I thought race day adrenaline might nudge me up to the target. The reality surpassed all my expectations. I finished in 1 hour 44 minutes and felt fantastic for the whole run, running my fastest ever 5k at 23 mins, my fastest ever 10k at 48 minutes and completing the first 12k of the race within the first hour.

Everything about the course is conducive to having a good run. It is relatively flat – although the kilometre leading up to the half course turnaround point has a hefty incline to be aware of. The date is perfect as the weather starts to cool overnight from early September. The race started shortly after 9am and on the day the weather was overcast and a little drizzly, but cleared up early to be fresh and dry.

lowering skies on race day

lowering skies on race day

The race was held beyond the Civilian Control Line for the first time this year, and according to the Korea Times’ report on the race, organisers hope to include territory further north in future runs. Hopefully that won’t push the very reasonable entry fee as high as the extortionate Pyongyang marathon – open to foreign amateur runners for the third time in April 2016. It did mean that roads were slow going on the way in as everyone passed through the military checkpoints, but in true Korean style things were done and dusted quickly and efficiently.

Interesting features to look out for along the way in and on the route are the famous ruin of the Cherwon office of the former Worker’s Party of Korea (see top picture), which was destroyed in the Korean war and stands as a stern reminder of the painful past. There are also checkpoints which you pass through during the run as you head out of the Civilian Control Zone and back in again. Camouflaged and threatening looking, the sting of heavily brocaded, gun-toting soldiers nearby was successfully diffused by the teams of volunteers giving out water and cheering us on. The area is all farmland and rolling hills, with the peak of Kim Il Sung mountain looming beyond the finishing line to encourage us forward in the name of peace. But the signs of war are still gently present in the various defensive devices here and there on the roads, a reminder that the sabre-rattling of the North is still taken with deadly seriousness in these parts.

All in all, this is a run I’d recommend to anyone, from beginner to pro. It’s well organised, small enough to be very friendly, and in a fascinating and beautiful location.

satellite sun salutation

satellite sun salutation

Cheorwon dawn

Cheorwon dawn

Next stop for me (after my upcoming move to Thailand) will hopefully be the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon in December which raises money for the victims of landmines in Cambodia.

What’s your next goal?

***

Nuts and bolts:

General information is at dmzrun.kr . If you open it in Chrome, you’ll get a rough translation of the page.

Results by gender and age group for the 2015 run are HERE, featuring Yours Truly quite prominently I’m proud to say.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holly Beddome
    Sep 18, 2015 @ 13:09:45

    Well done, and what an interesting route!

    Like

    Reply

  2. Dad
    Sep 18, 2015 @ 05:48:56

    Fantastic achievement Hannah!

    Like

    Reply

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