Fuller and Jaeger discuss experience of 'Running in North Korea'

The two Olympians took part in the Pyongyang Marathon in April 2019, the subject of a newly-released Olympic Channel documentary.

Olympic Channel's new documentary Running in North Korea premiered in London on Monday (23 September).

Set in the capital Pyongyang, the film follows British snowboarder Aimee Fuller and Swiss skier Mimi Jaeger as they prepared to and eventually ran in the annual Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon (Pyongyang Marathon).

It was made possible through the efforts of the National Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) who helped the International Olympic Committee (IOC) give the film crew access to the country.

Power of sport

Nearly 1,000 foreigners took part in this year's Pyongyang Marathon, half-marathon, or 10 km races, starting off from the nearly-full Kim Il Sung Stadium.

Fuller, who was competing in her first marathon, finished with a time of 4:35:34.

"(It was) one of the craziest experiences I think I've ever had. Going into the unknown for a week, being completely cut off from the outside world. Not only was it refreshing, it was eye opening," she said at the film's world premiere.

Asked about the experience of travelling to the DPRK, she added: "The feeling of going somewhere you know nothing about, there’s so much mystery, controversy and it was an opportunity to go there and decide for myself.

"The people there were lovely. It was so humbling to speak to the locals to see how grateful they are for the most simple things. I learnt that the world is a small place when it is accessible.

"Sport is the most powerful universal language, and it unifies even the most isolated of places. It created a sense of connection and familiarisation, purely through being there and running the marathon." - Aimee Fuller

Mimi Jaeger and Aimee Fuller attend the World Premiere of 'Running in North Korea'
Mimi Jaeger and Aimee Fuller attend the World Premiere of 'Running in North Korea'Mimi Jaeger and Aimee Fuller attend the World Premiere of 'Running in North Korea'

Jaeger, who ran the 10km race, agreed.

"You can read so much stuff online but you don’t really know what’s true and what’s not true cause you don’t really know much about this country at all.

"The kindness of the people, they were really super kind actually. I think they were happy we were there, at least that’s what I thought. Most of them were really, really nice and accommodating."

Would the skier recommend others to do the Pyongyang race?

"If you want to experience something unique and definitely different than any other race on this earth, then it’s definitely worth trying it because it’s an opportunity to do your sport," she said.

But she added: "You just got to be prepared that you only see what they want you to see.

"I’m very grateful that I got to travel to North Korea, with such a great team and experience that race. I’ve seen stuff that not in the movies but I’ll remember it for a lifetime." - Mimi Jaeger

Unifying force

In January 2018, the IOC paved the way for the DPRK to participate at PyeongChang 2018 with 22 athletes competing in three sports and five disciplines.

Athletes from both Koreas marched together at the Opening Ceremony under the Korean Unification Flag, and the two countries competed together as a Unified Team in women's ice hockey, a team profiled in another Olympic Channel documentary, We Are One.

There are ongoing talks about the possibility of unified Korean teams competing in some sports and disciplines at Tokyo 2020.

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