North Korean travel agencies surprised athletes the world over recently when they announced that admission to the Pyongyang Marathon will be open to recreational runners this year.
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Previously, The Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, its formal title, was an elite-only event and has never included a U.S. athlete. Now the looser restrictions may lure some Americans to travel to the mysterious, long-forbidden country.
But running in a socialist state is far from the most unusual thing one can do during a race. In fact, the world is full to brimming with curious quests. Here are some of the world's wackiest marathons and races:
The Neverending Marathon If you're the type who steps onto the course and feels like he could run forever, consider signing up for Morocco's Marathon des Sables, a 151-mile "ultra-run" across the Sahara Desert. That should quench your thirst for mileage, if not your actual thirst.
Run with the... Mules Animal lovers will get a kick (possibly literally) out of the Boom Days Pack Burro Race in Leadville, Colo., where runners are paired up with a burro or donkey to run alongside for 22 miles of mountainous terrain.
A Vision in White Fancy a jog in the southernmost area of the world? Enter the Antarctic Ice Marathon, a frigid 26.2 mile race with an average windchill temperature of -20C and an altitude of 700 meters.
Tropical Trot At the other end of the spectrum, the Kona Underpants Run in Kona, Hawaii, calls for stripping down to one's skivvies. Held a few days before the Hawaii Ironman World Championship, the event was designed to allow athletes to blow off some steam before the big competition but now it's become its own destination.
Dash in the Middle of the Night Choose from 3K, 5K and 10K options at the Midnight Run in Reykjavik, Iceland. Despite kicking off at 10 p.m., the race takes place in complete daylight as it occurs during the solstice. Afterward, participants rub elbows in geothermal hot tubs. Glugging glogg is entirely optional.
Old-School Style Can you really call yourself a runner if you haven't conquered the course where it all began? The Spartathlon, a 26.2-mile run from Athens to Sparta follows the same path Pheidippides blazed in ancient Greece, traveling from sea level to heights of 3,937 feet. Finishers say you will feel truly godlike after.