04/23/2014 05:19 EDT | Updated 04/25/2014 01:59 EDT

Canadian Runs North Korean Marathon, Takes Candid Images (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Canadian marathoner Jen Loong not only visited North Korea where few foreigners are permitted, but she also posted some rare candid images of life in the secretive dictatorship.

Loong, 25, ran the Pyongyang Marathon earlier this month, the first time the event was open to foreigners. She stayed in the country for a week, when former leader Kim Il Sung's birthday was also being celebrated.

Loong is from Vancouver but currently lives in Shanghai for business. She explained that she travels to at least three or four international races each year "to explore sights and sounds of a new city while on the run," and that her motto is "to do one thing a day that scares you."

In an Ask Me Anything on Reddit this week, she was asked if she felt she was legitimizing the North Korean government.

"I flip-flopped on this before going too. The only thing I am legitimizing is the support for NK [North Korea] to open up to the rest of the world, and allowing foreign runners to go in and see it on their own accord was truly a step in that direction," Loong responded.

"When the race started we ran around the stadium with 50,000 cheering Pyongyang citizens clapping away. I hope NK gov't will bring more of this international perspective to their citizens. What's more is seeing all the smiling faces on the children along the run, looking at us for hope and smiles!"

The Canadian runner said she was told the rooms in the hotel were tapped, so she whispered most of the time. Remarkably, Loong said government officials did not follow her closely during the marathon.

"We ran unguided for the full distance, high-five-ing locals along the way," she told Reddit. "We couldn’t run off tracks surely with soldier on every block, but running at your own pace and interacting with locals was good enough for me!”

A total of 1,000 runners entered the marathon, with participants coming from 27 foreign countries as well as North Korea, reported CNN. Loong said 200 were foreigners.

Loong captured some astonishing Instagram footage, including video of herself dancing with a drunk North Korean man, and a little girl dancing in the park with her grandmother.

See more of Jen Loong's Instagram images:

Canadian Marathoner's North Korea Photos

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