A large contingent of international marathon runners are expected to be welcomed in North Korea despite the safety warnings to foreign embassy staff in the country.
Competitors from Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ethiopia are expected to join 600 North Koreans in Friday's race, the North's state news agency has said.
The annual Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, now in its 26th year, is recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The race is held as part of celebrations for the birthday of the North's founding hero Kim Il Sung, which falls on Saturday and will be marked by a big military parade.
Through her tears, a North Korean woman told me how she had to escape: risk death while running across the border or die of starvation.
Memories of the Korean war are never far away in South Korea, where residents have grown used to living with the constant threat of war.
North Korea said it will withdraw workers from the Kaesong factory park run jointly with South Korea and suspend all operations there.