The 25th Mangyongdae Prize Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, was run in Pyongyang, the capital of People’s Republic of Korea on Sunday (8). As usual, the marathon was run around the time of the birthday of the first leader and president of the country, Kim Il Sung (15th April 1912), and this time it was special because of the 100th anniversary of the birthday.
On a cloudy day in the capital, the marathon started from the full Kim Il Sung Stadium in front of more than 100,000 spectators. The men’s race was not the fastest and therefore a rather big leading group stayed together until quite late in the race. Last year’s winner Russian Oleg Marusin was not running this time, but the runner-up Morris Mureithi Mwangi of Kenya, and third placer David Ngakane of South Africa were both in the leading group this year too.
At the 25km stage there were still nine men together and not much happened for the next 10km, but then Ukranian Oleksandr Matviychuk finally made what seemed a decisive move. The 28-year-old, with only a 2:16:30 personal best, quickly broke free from the others opening a huge lead of 59 seconds at the 40km mark from home runner Pak Song Chol, 27, who won this marathon twice in a row in 2007 and 2008. Mwangi was four seconds behind Pak at this stage in third place closely followed by another PRK-athlete Kim Gwang Hyok just one second behind him.
Yet drama was still to unfold as the Ukrainian leader, who had won the last two Peace Marathons in Moscow, apparently thought he had won the race and was nearly surprised by Pak Song Chol, who staged a grand finale to the race. Pak caught Matviychuk at the stadium and even took a slight lead ahead of the final 100m straight of the race. However his moment of glory was to be brief as the Ukrainian coming down the outside passed the two-time race winner at the finish line, both timed 2:12:54. The time was a big personal best for Matviychuk, and a season’s best and second best ever career clocking for Pak behind his PB 2:12:41 achieved when winning here in 2007.
Kenyan Morris Mureithi Mwangi registered his fifth top three finish here in five tries, he was second last year, now third in 2:13:29 and has also won this race in 2004. In fourth place Kim Gwang Hyok set a big personal best 2:13:54 and also his first sub 2:20 clocking.
Another Ukrainian Anatoliy Orzhekovskyy set a 2:15:14 personal best for fifth place and David Ngakane was sixth in 2:16:00. Taipei athlete Chang Chia-Che was seventh in 2:16:06 and Ryo Bong Hyok from PRK eighth in 2:16:15.
The women’s race, as usual, was much more straightforward. By the 20km mark, there were only four runners left at the top, all from PRK. Last year’s winner Ro Un Ok was one of the four, but she started to descend in the rankings from this point forward. Instead it was trio Kim Mi Gyong, Kim Hye Gyong and Jon Gyong Hui, who reached 30km in 1:47:37, with the rest of the field left adrift. Both Kims are real newcomers at this level and only Jon had registered a good marathon finish before with a fourth place in this race in 2008. 21-year-old Kim Mi Gyong had only run one marathon prior to this one in Macau in December 2011 finishing in 2:38:36 and 19-year-old Kim Hye Gyong was debuting.
Kim Mi Gyong left the others standing before 40km quickly opening a 26-second lead, which she easily kept until the finish winning in 2:30:41 lowering her personal best by almost eight minutes. Junior athlete Kim Hye Gyong was second in 2:31:29, a national junior record and certainly gave all she got in the race almost fainting at the finish line. Jon Gyong Hui also set a PB 2:31:40 in third place as did all the first seven athletes, all from PRK. In eighth place last year’s winner Ro Un Ok ran 2:36:06. The first non-PRK athlete was in ninth place, Zhang Xiaoxia of China in 2:36:49 PB.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF