whole nation thought he was a crazy old man to
undertake an almost impossible feat. Most feared
that he would die trying. But this humble old man
proved all the critics wrong."
"Cliff Young, at 61 years of age, participated in
1983's Sydney to Melbourne race. Considered to be
the world's toughest race, with the distance of 875
kilometers (543.7 miles) and at least 6 to 7 days to
finish, Cliff Young entered the race against
world-class athletes. Read how he achieved the
unthinkable and inspires the whole nation."
Young, A Farmer Who Inspired A Nation
year, Australia hosts an 875-kilometer endurance
racing from Sydney to Melbourne - considered to be
longest and toughest ultra-marathon.
It's a long, tough race that takes a week and
normally participated by world-class
train specially for the event. Backed by big names
in sports like Nike, these athletes were mostly less
than 30 years old, men and women equipped with the
most expensive sponsored training outfits and shoes.
these top class runners were in for a surprise. On
the day of the race, a guy named Cliff Young showed
up. At first, no one cared about him since everybody
thought he was there to watch the event. After all,
he was 61 years old, and showed up in overalls and
galoshes over his work boots.
walked up to the table to take his number, it became
obvious to everybody he was going to run. He was
join a group of 150 world-class athletes
and run! During that time, these runners didn't even
know another surprising fact - his only trainer was
his 81-year-old mother, Neville Wran.
Everybody thought that it was a crazy publicity
stunt. But the press was curious, so as he took his
number 64 and moved into the pack of runners in
their special, expensive racing outfits, the camera
focused on him and reporters started to ask:
are you and what are you doing?"
"I'm Cliff Young. I'm from a large ranch where we
run sheep outside of Melbourne."
They said, "You're really going to run in this
"Yeah," Cliff nodded.
"Got any backers?"
"Then you can't run."
can." Cliff said. "See, I grew up on a farm where we
couldn't afford horses or four wheel drives, and the
whole time I
was growing up - until about four years
ago when we finally made some money and got a four
wheeler - whenever the storms would roll in, I'd have
to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head,
and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would
run those sheep for two or three days. It took a
long time, but I'd catch them. I believe I can run
this race; it's only two more days. Five days. I've
run sheep for three."
marathon started, the pros left Cliff behind in his
galoshes. The crowds smiled because he didn't even
run correctly. Instead of running, he appeared to
run leisurely, shuffling like an amateur.
61-year-old potato farmer from Beech Forest with no
teeth had started the ultra-tough race with
world-class athletes. All over Australia, people who
watched the live telecast kept on praying that
someone would stop this crazy old man from running
because everyone believed he'll die before even
getting halfway across Sydney.
Turtle -vs- rabbits
Every professional athlete knew for certain that it
took about 7 days to finish this race, and that in
order to compete, you would need to run 18 hours and
sleep 6 hours. The thing is, old Cliff Young did not
morning news of the race was aired, people were in
big surprise. Cliff was still in the
race and had jogged all night down to a
city called Mittagong.
Apparently, Cliff did not stop after the first day.
Although he was still far behind the world-class
athletes, he kept on running. He even had the time
to wave to
spectators who watched the event by
the highways. When he
got to a town called Albury he was asked about his
tactics for the rest of the race. He said he would
run through to the finish, and he did.
running. Every night he got just a little bit closer
to the leading pack. By the last night, he passed
all of the world-class athletes. By the last day, he
was way in front of them. Not only did he run the
Melbourne to Sydney race at age 61, without dying,
he won first place, breaking the race record by 9
hours and became a national hero! The nation fell in
love with the 61-year-old potato farmer who came out
of nowhere to defeat the world's best long distance
finished the 875-kilometre race in 5 days, 15 hours
and 4 minutes. Not knowing that he was supposed to
sleep during the race, he said when running
throughout the race, he imagined that he was chasing
sheep and trying to outrun a storm.
Cliff was awarded the first prize of $10,000, he
said he did not know there was a prize and insisted
that he had not entered for the money. He said,
"There're five other runners still out there doing
it tougher than me," and he gave them $2,000 each.
He did not keep a single cent for himself. That act
endeared him to all of Australia. Cliff was a
humble, average man,
who undertook an extraordinary
feat and became a national sensation.
The Inspirational Run Continues
In the following year, Cliff Young entered the same
race and won the 7th place. During the race, his
hip popped out of the joint socket, his knee played
he endured shin splints.
But those didn't deter him from finishing the race.
When he was announced as the winner for most
courageous runner and presented with a Mitsubishi
Colt, he said, "I didn't do it near as tough as old
Bob McIlwaine. Here, Bob, you have the car," and
gave the keys to him.
said that Cliff Young never kept a single prize.
People gave him watches, because he never had one.
He would thank them because he did not want to hurt
their feelings, but would then give it away to the
first child he saw. He did not understand why he
would need a watch because, he said, he knew when it
was daylight, when it was dark, and when he was
came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he
attempted to become the oldest man to run around
Australia and raise money for homeless children.
managed to completed 6,520km of the 16,000km run
before he had to pull out after his only permanent
crew member became ill.
for running never diminished but in year 2000, after
collapsing in his Gellibrand home a week after
completing 921 kilometers of a 1600-kilometre race,
he lost his strength for running. The mild stroke
ended his heroic running days. After
the long illness, Cliff Young, the running legend
passed away on 2nd November 2003. He was 81.
"Young-shuffle" has been adopted by ultra-marathon
runners because it is considered more aerodynamic
and expends less energy. At least 3 winners of the
Sydney to Melbourne race have been known to use the
"Young-shuffle" to win the race.
the Sydney to Melbourne race, almost nobody sleeps. To
win that race, you have to run like Cliff Young did,
you have to run all night as well as all day.