Runners take off from the starting line inside Kim Il Sung Stadium at the beginning of the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon in Pyongyang, North Korea on Sunday. Pic: AP.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Runners from all over the world have filled the streets of North Korea’s showcase capital for the annual Pyongyang marathon, which is open to foreign amateurs this year for the first time.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans lined the streets Sunday to applaud, cheer and sometimes high-five the runners, who were followed by a truck blaring patriotic music.

They stood and roared as North Korea’s Pak Chol crossed the finish line. Compatriots Kim Hye Gyong and her twin sister, Kim Hye Song, finished first and second in the women’s race.

Officials say runners from 27 countries took part, including 225 amateurs. The foreign runners were instructed not to carry U.S. or Japanese flags, or wear clothing with large writing or that was deemed inappropriately political.

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