After our team’s goal, one by one, runners reached the goal.
The blind runner, Mr. Hamada, is coming to the goal with Mr.Kim!
There was a special moment after the goal.
Every Japanese and Korean runner gathered around Mr. Hamada and Mr. Kim, and shouted together “Korea! Japan! Korea! Japan!” and took a commemorative photo.
The shout gradually changed to “Asia! Asia! Asia!”. Then runners from China, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia joined in too to take a commemorative photo.
International border disputes, border lines… Nothing mattered among the runners who ran towards the same 250km goal together.
The final stage 6 ended like that.
But there was another important stage left.
The award ceremony at the race’s after-party, where I saw the Italian team in 2011.
To tell you the truth, I prepared my award ceremony’s speech before the race.
Maybe this is why my left neck gets so stiff because I think too much.
What I wanted to do was even more than what the Italian team did in the Sahara race in 2011.
I wanted to do the speech as a team too.
The leader did the speech alone when the Italian team won the 2011 Sahara race.
But with Team KIZUNA, every member was a leader at some point. Our team was a team with everyone being the leader, and we won as world champions.
We split our championship speech among the three of us so we could do it together.
We prepared a draft, discussed it, edited it, and thoroughly practiced the English pronunciation by speaking out loud.
At the ceremony with every runner and staff present, we displayed Toshiwo’s photograph on a computer and gave the following speech:
Thank you so much…
At first, very important thing…
During this race, we were very happy to be cheered up like “Go Boys”", “Good luck Boys!”.
But unfortunately, we are not “Boys”.
We are almost 40th, not 14th
Anyway, Our team name is “KIZUNA”.
“KIZUNA” is a Japanese word which means something can tie people together emotionally, like a “bond” in English.
This wear is our KIZUNA for both all of us and with “him” (pointing at Mr. Toshio’s photo).
He is the designer of our team ware, as well as our friend, elder brother, who taught us the importance of ” KIZUNA “
He had been fighting against cancer for 11months, and passed away last week , just the same day we left Tokyo for Atacama, for this race….
He was only 50years old….
It was his pushing us whole the way , that enabled us to get this great prize..
So we would like to pray for him , for 5seconds..
It would be great , if u could pray together for him..
Completing this race as a team, we got more experiences than expected.
We learned how difficult the team management under tough condition is.
However, once we got over the difficulties, we could enhance hour team abilities more than sum of individual abilities.
Thanks to my team mates, we got a successful result, as well strong friendship among us, our KIZUNA.
Also, we’d like to thank you for all competitors and staff.
Top rankers would open undeveloped wild course, all the runners encouraged us showing their fighting spirits toward goal, and, all the staff provided us great supports all the time.
Lifetime is limited.
But, this is why we do our challenge.
We really thank to each of our friends, family, and ancestors that we were able to do our challenge, like this crazy Atacama Crossing.
Lastly, we would like to thank to all the staff of Racing The Planet, thanks.
After our speech, many runners, including the top rank players, stood up and gathered around us.
The site was filled with everyone shouting and cheering out loud, “KIZUNA!! KIZUNA!! KIZUNA!!”
I was totally touched and got goose bumps.
“Toshiwo, are you seeing this? You must be watching. The uniform that you created, and the spirit you injected, ‘KIZUNA’ – everybody from around the world is cheering and shouting it as the world No.1 team’s name! Thank you so much!!!”
Many runners would say,
“You boys were great! Congratulations!”
“I was so moved by your speech, boys!!”
(I told everyone not to call us ‘boys’ since we’re almost 40. But I sense they are saying it on purpose. I feel love from their way of saying it!)
Toshiwo is probably holding his thumbs up with a smile on his face like this.
We did it!!!
We are the first Japanese team to become world champions in a desert race!!!
We did it!!!