Lancashire TelegraphSabden runner gives inside track on North Korea after marathon (From Lancashire Telegraph)

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Sabden runner gives inside track on North Korea after marathon

Lancashire Telegraph: Meriel crosses the finishing line in the stadium in Pyongyang Meriel crosses the finishing line in the stadium in Pyongyang

AN East Lancashire mum-of-two has returned home after completing a marathon in the world’s most secretive country.

Meriel Woodward, 41, from Sabden, was one of only 40 for-eigners invited to take part in the 26-mile run in North Korea.

It was the first time ever that the country, run by Kim Jong-un, has allowed foreign amat-eurs to run the course in the nation’s capital, Pyongyang.

As well as completing the four laps of the city, and being cheered on by an 80,000-strong crowd at the start, Meriel has also raised more than £2,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The Gardeners Row resident, who works for Senator Intern-ational, in Lower Darwen, has previously completed the Great Wall Run, in China, twice as well as the Shanghai Half while living in China for five years.

Meriel, who is the daughter of Accrington car dealer and poet Hugh Davies, said: “It was an amazing experience, and I got to stay in the capital for five days, and another two days in China.

“The run itself was OK bec-ause it was not too hilly and, once you had done the first lap, you knew what was coming.

“I wanted to go after my friend went in 2002 and wrote a book about it, and it’s been on my mind ever since.

“There must have been an element of the trip that was stage-managed, and they only took us to places that they want- ed to show us.

“We couldn’t take pictures of everyone, only people who look- ed smart.

“It was like they were emb-arrassed if there was someone who wasn’t smart.

“Everyone I met was really friendly, and everyone had a good sense of humour. At the end, I ran back to the stadium, but they had closed the doors because the ceremony for the winners was taking place.

“I had to prise them open to get back in to finish the race, which was quite funny.

“I had to wait until it was over to finish the final lap of the stadium.”

For more information about Meriel’s trip, or to sponsor her, visit: www.justgiving.com/meriel woodward

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