I know this much is really, really true

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Another thing I will definitely not pencil into my calendar is the Pyongyang Marathon, set for this month in North Korea. For the first time, the race is open to runners of any nationality, even Americans. Because of the exquisitely complex nature of North Korean bureaucracy, participants are required to apply and travel with pre-approved groups.

The course comprises four loops around the city of 2.5 million people. The only specific requirement for competitors is that they complete all 26.2 miles within four hours. If not, they will be escorted from the course, according to North Korean authorities . . . and presumably chopped into small pieces and fed to the sharks in the Great Leader’s wishing well.

Seemingly sane athletes are really planning to go. Despite the fact that every so often, a tourist to North Korea winds up doing hard labor in a rock quarry, travelers are packing their running shoes. I’m an adventurous traveler; I have stood toe to toe with Komodo dragons in Indonesia. Well, in truth, I was kind of running my own marathon that day — OK, more of a sprint — away from the dragons. But I’m not easily daunted, and I would never, ever consider traveling to the social and cultural black hole known as North Korea. Whew. That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about this year.

One final experience I will not sign up for is the much-touted “monkey diet.” It all started nearly 30 years ago, when researchers posed the hypothesis that people would live longer if they ate fewer calories than normal. Naturally, they tested their theory on monkeys, who didn’t get to vote on how many bananas they ate. Not one of them signed a consent form. Yet thousands of monkeys, who previously grew fat and round on berries and one another’s fleas, were restricted to a meager diet that kept them skinny and, probably, quite miserable.

In 2009, a group of researchers reported that the semi-starved monkeys did indeed live longer. Then a second group of scientists challenged the findings, claiming that both the skinny monkeys and regulation-size monkeys enjoyed similar life spans.
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