Anyone can find the house of “runner papa” without his address in Wau Workers’ District in Taedong County, South Phyongan Province, as he is 78-year-old Pak Jong Gil well known to all the locals.
“I’ve seen the old man at a jog every morning for over ten years, and I cannot but marvel at his spirit and passion,” said Jon Chol Myong, a staff member of the district office.
According to his wife Kim Su Jong (aged 75), Pak worked at the agricultural material supply store of Taedong County and used to run to and from his workplace which was four kilometres away.
As he is so keen on running, he has been jogging a distance of 9-10km early every morning along the course he set by himself since he retired.
In April 2004, he applied for his first entry into the international marathon in celebration of the Day of the Sun held in Pyongyang. As he prepared for the competition, he ran the distance of 48km backward and forward between the county and the provincial seat of Phyongsong in five hours and a half, to the surprise of locals.
At the competition, the 62-year-old debutant set the record of passing the 10km point in 43 minutes, leaving a deep impression on spectators.
Since then, he has participated in the 10km amateur races of the event seven times.
He also took part in the 2019 Autumn Amateur Marathoners Competition held in the capital city last September.
At the age of 77, he was the oldest runner of the event which drew lots of marathon lovers from many countries and regions including the DPRK, China, Russia, Germany and Poland.
With the number “098” on his chest, he ran 5km in 28 minutes and crossed the finishing line amid the hearty cheers of the spectators.
“As he reached the finish line with no sign of fatigue on his smiling face, some foreign runners gave him thumbs-up signs,” said an official who had been a member of the organizing committee, adding he perfectly displayed his sportsmanship.
He looks much younger than he really is.
He has no dislikes in food and favours vegetables and beans. He has a good habit of rubbing his body with a cold wet towel. The healthy old man is also a good singer.
According to his household doctor Ri Chan Jin, Pak has a strong heart and lungs and good mobility.
He is now limbering up for the amateur marathon to be held in celebration of the Day of the Sun in coming April.