April 14, 2014 9:00 PM EDT

Organizers of the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, recognized as a bronze-label event by the International Association of Athletics Federations and held for the past 27 years, told the Associated Press they opted to allow the new recreational runners in an effort to more boldly celebrate the birthday of their nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15. Officials said the race, which typically has featured elite foreigners, included 225 amateurs and runners from 27 countries. The course, a largely flat path of four loops around the center of the city, had to be completed within four hours so roads could be reopened. A half marathon and a 10-kilometer run were also held as thousands of North Koreans lined the streets to cheer the participants.

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