Golden Grand Prix Tokyo. Many were there to relive memories of Abebe and Tsuburaya, of Taniguchi and Yamashita's 1991 World Championships medals, and of Seko, Takahashi and Noguchi's wins at the old Tokyo International Marathon, but there's no question that the main draw was the meet-closing men's 100 m featuring Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) up against the likes of Justin Gatlin (U.S.A.), Christophe Lemaitre (France) and Mike Rodgers (U.S.A.). Strong winds precluded fast times as multiple medalist Gatlin duly took 1st in 10.02 (-3.5) over Rodgers and Lemaitre. Kiryu was just 5th in 10.46, but fans seemed happy to see him in action regardless of the outcome.
men's and women's results.
Kawamoto's win was a big enough surprise but there was shock all around when the board read 1:45.75 for his time, a new national record by 0.41 and more than a second under his PB. Yes, Japanese middle distance is still weak, especially among men, and 1:45.75 is still shy of even the B-standard for this fall's Asian Games, but a national record is a national record and doing it in style in the final meet on hallowed ground guarantees Kawamoto a place among the greats in the National Stadium's history books.
800 spectators were lucky enough to get to touch that history as part of the Golden Grand Prix Tokyo's closing ceremonies, given 30 minutes to run on its track one last time. After speeches from Ethiopian dignitaries commemorating Abebe Bikila's Olympic marathon defense fifty years ago at the National Stadium, the Memorial Run participants circled the track under the light of the burning Olympic flame as the sun set, the digital clocks reading "Sayonara Kokuritsu," "Goodbye National."
As we ran JRN associate editor Mika Tokairin talked about her five times running the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, and I couldn't help recalling my one race there, the 2007 Shinjuku City Half Marathon when I set my lifetime PB starting and finishing on the National Stadium track, starting next to Toshihiko Seko and being the only person on the track and screen for my final lap.
Along with my half marathon PB, some of my favorite memories of the National Stadium in no particular order:
- Seeing South African Gert Thys's then-incredible 2:06:33 course record win at the 1999 Tokyo International Marathon my first time going there and Japhet Kosgei and Lee Bong Ju's low-2:07 battle a year later.
- Going to cheer a clubmate around the same time who finished last at the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, clearing the cutoff time by seconds as the entire stadium roared for her last 100 m, blacking out and pitching face down after crossing the line to completely upstage the winner and make all the sports shows.
- Standing outside the Marathon Gate waiting for Mika the first year I coached her and shouting "FASTER MIKA!" as she came in to a PB.
- Eri Hayakawa at the old Tokyo 10 km outkicking a man on the track to take the overall win.
- Getting to see Mizuki Noguchi finish her 2007 Tokyo International Women's Marathon course record win.
- Shota Iizuka's otherworldly 4x100 m collegiate national record anchor run for Chuo University at the 2010 Kanto Regionals meet.
- Just about every time I went to watch the Kanto Regionals meet's half marathon, run on a ten-loop course through and around the National Stadium.
- A group of showoff young guys learn about human physiology at an amateur runner event where I was part of the coaching staff. Participants had to run a 300 m, and this group of guys went all-out from the start until they hit right about 220 m.
Goodbye, National Stadium.
(c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Kawamoto photo (c) 2014 M.Kawaguchi, all rights reserved
other photos (c) 2014 Mika Tokairin, all rights reserved