Your wife interviewed him? That's great! When I was invited to this running symposium last year, Nakayama was supposed to be one of the panel guys along with some WC medalists, Olympian, etc. He was the only one I wanted the autograph of--simply because he was such a lebel.
He was, you might say, a blue color runner. Unlike runners like Seko or perhaps anybody else, who was a good runner in high school and went on to a corporate team; he was from a very small remote village and, although a decent runner, never been "recruited" to a corporate team. That was a big chip on his shoulder. He had to work at a train station for a couple of years, cleaning the public bathroom there, drunk businessmen puking all over the place and all that... All his training was done in the total darkness during that time but he trained very hard because of one goal in mind--to be a good runner. He won Nagoya City 30k race to be recognized by the late coach Sato at Daie corp team. I believe he ran Fukuoka in 82 or 83 but not with much promise. It was, I believe, 1984 Fukuoka; post LA Olympics and none of the big names (from Japan) were running. A young East German was the favorite along with Ikangaa. Then this tall figure with Afro perm hair was running along side. He ended up winning prestegious Fukuoka in 2:10 something. Not a bad time either. Then came Hiroshima World Cup marathon in the spring of 1985. Soh brothers were running and Nakayama, though Fukuoka champ from previous year, was just one of the runners. The race turned out to be a neck-to-neck battle between Nakayama and Djibuti's Salah. I was there, watching the race at a coffee shop with Australia's Pat Clohessy and we couldn't figure out who the heck this Japanse was. As we rushed to the stadium to watch the finish, there was an excitement that these two were very close to breakig then-Jonesie's world record of 2:08:05. Salah took off coming into the stadium and coasted in the second fastest time in history (I think it was something like 2:08:10) with Nakayama breaking Seko's national record with 2:08:15. Very exciting race.
87 Fukuoka was an epic race. Nakayama was mad, going into that race. Nakayama had run several 2:08s in a row, which was unheard of at the time (something like one in Beijing and another one in Korea or something). He also broke Seko's 10000m national record by 10 seconds or something and he definitely was THE huge threat to Prince Seko who was the prime example of "white color" elite--high school middle distance star, Waseda university standout, and S&B elite runner. His big chip in the shoulder was actually working well for him; he had pretty much single-mind goal and that is to crash all Seko's record and Seko himself. Federation picked Fukuoka to be THE Olympic Trial; then came the news that Seko was injured. All of a sudden they decided to include Lake Biwa to be the second Trial race. Nakayama didn't like that at all. Nakayama left the famous quote: "If Seko wanted to go to the Olympics, he should crawl to Fukuoka!"
The race day was with freezing rain. Temp was probably no higher than 40F. You could see runner's breath. Mad Nakayama took off from the gun--he wanted to show the world that he was so much better than Seko. Prior to that race, Shorter ran the first 5k in 14:36 in 1973 Fukuoka and that was the fastest opening 5. Nakayama did 14:30 and the condition was far from ideal for such an opening. The last 10k, he was bearly hanging onto it; his arms and legs were freezing and getting numb. I believe the guy who finished second, Shintaku, was actually closing in the final 5k (Seko's teammate). Many believed, had it been run in more ideal condition and had he paced himself, he would have run 2:06 that day.
His unfortunate situation was; he was too much of a lebel and he just didn't have more charismatic coach/mentor. He was instired by his own rage to force public to recognize him. Of course, that's what made him such a great runner; but had he been guided a bit more sensibly, he could have been running 2:06 or even 2:05 when people were bearly imagining 2:07 marathon. He was that good. Going into Seoul Olympic, he was already injured. It was a miracle that he finished 4th. Of course, his racing style was very different--he always did well when he took off and controlled the race from the front. The opening of Seoul was something like 15:50. It just wasn't his race. In 1991 Tokyo WC, he was in a too good of shape that he over-trained. He looked waaaaaay too skinny going into the race. Of course, just like Takahashi in 2003 Tokyo marathon, he ran out of gas and retired. After that, it was Taniguchi (who won 91 WC) and Morishita's era. It showed somewhat "soft" side of Nakayama when Morishita (I believe it was his first marathon) won Tokyo marathon before Barcelona. Nakayama was leading and then Morishita came up from behind. As Morishita passed Nakayama, he patted on his back and urged him on. Some experts had pointed out that his "fire" was gone. As Morishita battled it out with Wong for the silber medal in Barcelona, Nakayama quietly took 4th place, bearly missig it by steps to the German guy.
Nakayama was what some called "spring" runner. His style of getting up on his toes and run te entire 42km, besides Bill Rodgers, was quite unheard of even today. By 1992, ASICS's shoe-maker, Mimura, said that Nakayama came to him and asked for special shoes with extra cushion. He said then that he knew Nakayama's era was finished. He was losing that spring. Adidas was trying to get him to wear their shoes in early 1990s. I was talking to the guy who was working on that project and saw Nakayama's training shoes. There was not much wear sign at all on his heel; it was all in the fore-part of the shoes. He was a typical "toe-runner" just like Shorter or Rodgers. Had they had today's rabbitting, to have 4 or 5 runners to guard him and pace him through at more sensible (or "sane") 15:00 splits, I have no doubt, he would have run 2:05 back in 1980s.
He coached a collge team for a while but didn't do much. Then he now coaches a high school team. I think he is doing probably doing a better job developing a character than a fine runner; which might suit better for a high school coach, as an educator. His son is running for some high school and doing well but not exceptional. Along with his character and great talent, he was known with his Afro perm and squeeky high-voice. Far from politically-correct, no-nonesence type of a guy; but actually quite a nice guy. Maybe he did lose that "fire" and that sort of "rounded" him up.