A Sabden mother-of-two has spoken of her incredible experience visiting North Korea along with just a handful of Brits invited to run a marathon in the reclusive East Asian state.
Meriel Woodward (41) was one of just 40 foreigners invited to join in the 26-mile run in the nation’s capital Pyongyang.
It is the first time the ruling regime has opened up the marathon to outsiders in the secretive totalitarian country run by ruler Kim Jong-un.
Meriel, who works for East Lancashire firm Senator, ran the race around the Pyongyang which finished in front of 80,000 spectators at the city’s stadium.
She said: “It was absolutely amazing. We did four laps of the city and we had children and grannies cheering us on and shouting ‘England.’
She completed the race in four hours and 15 minutes and has raised around £2,000 for a cancer charity.
She was inspired to take on the challenge after reading a book by modern adventurer Bear Grylls
Meriel, who ran a business in China before setting up home in Sabden, said: “We are put on this earth to do something amazing not just to go through the daily grind.
“After reading the Bear Grylls book I just decided to do it
“It was the first time the foreigners have been able to take part in the marathon.”
Meriel, who lives in Gardeners Row, was able to take a five-day tour of the country where she visited the Nampo Dam, Kaesong and the demilitarised zone with South Korea.
She got the chance to visit a school and look round classrooms where students put on a traditional dance performance as well as trying the local cuisine.
She said: “The people are so friendly. They were really happy to see us. They are so much more open, friendly, kind and humorous than you would expect.
“It is definitely different than it is perceived. It is very family orientated.
“We spent a lot of time in Pyongyang which is amazing and has lots of wide avenues.
“We went into the parks because it was their holidays and there were lots of families enjoying picnics.
“The place really feels peaceful – there is less traffic and no mobile phones – it is a much more simple way of life. I did really enjoy that side of it.” Meriel is hoping to return for another visit to North Korea in the future.