Cliff Young was an Australian potato farmer who, in 1983, at the age of 61, unexpectedly entered and won the Sydney to Melbourne ultramarathon race, despite having no prior running experience or training. This incredible feat has made Young a national hero in Australia and inspired countless others to pursue their own dreams, regardless of their background or experience.
Young lived a simple life on his farm in Bega, New South Wales, where he grew potatoes and raised his family. He had never heard of ultramarathon running before, but when he saw an advertisement for the race in a magazine, he was intrigued and decided to enter. The Sydney to Melbourne race was a grueling 875 km (544 miles) event that would take the runners from the heart of Sydney to the streets of Melbourne in just over five days.
Despite having no running experience or training, Young entered the race with a quiet determination and a unique approach to running. Unlike the other runners, who used a high-knee lift, Young ran with a shuffling gait that he had developed from years of chasing after sheep on his farm. This unconventional style was initially met with laughter from the other runners, but as the days went on and the other runners began to tire and drop out of the race, they realized the efficiency of Young’s shuffling gait, which allowed him to conserve his energy and keep going.
Young’s determined spirit and unorthodox running style inspired others to keep going when they thought they couldn’t, and his win was a testament to the power of perseverance and determination. He showed that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how you run, as long as you keep moving forward and never give up.
In addition to his determination and unique running style, Young’s training regimen was also unconventional. Unlike the other runners, who trained for months in advance, Young did not follow any structured training program or seek the advice of any running experts. Instead, he relied on his years of hard work on the farm to prepare him for the race. This, along with his simple diet of potatoes and other whole foods, contributed to his success and inspired others to pursue their own dreams without worrying about following the conventional path.
After his win, Young became a national hero and was featured in countless magazines and newspapers. He was even invited to run in several other ultramarathon races, including the famous Western States 100-mile race in the United States. Despite his newfound fame, Young remained humble and continued to live a simple life on his farm in Bega.
Cliff Young’s journey has inspired many people to push themselves beyond their limits and to never give up on their dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem. He proved that age is just a number and that anything is possible if you have the determination and the heart to see it through. He also showed that success does not come from following conventional methods or having the latest training techniques, but from hard work and determination.
In conclusion, Cliff Young’s journey from a simple potato farmer to a national hero and ultramarathon champion is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the determination to never give up. His story will continue to inspire generations to come and serves as a reminder that anything is possible if you have the heart and the will to see it through. Whether you are an experienced athlete or a beginner, his story proves that success is within reach if you have the determination and the perseverance to make it happen
Young arrived to compete in overalls and work boots, without his dentures (later saying that they rattled when he ran). He ran at a slow and loping pace and trailed the pack by a large margin at the end of the first day. While the other competitors stopped to sleep for six hours, Young kept running. He ran continuously for five days, taking the lead during the first night and eventually winning by 10 hours. Before running the race, he had told the press that he had previously run for two to three days straight rounding up sheep in gumboots. He said afterwards that during the race he imagined he was running after sheep trying to outrun a storm. The Westfield run took him five days, fifteen hours and four minutes, almost two days faster than the previous record for any run between Sydney and Melbourne, at an average speed of 6.5 kilometers per hour (4.0 mph). All six competitors who finished the race broke the old record. Upon being awarded the prize of A$10,000 (equivalent to $32,067 in 2018), Young said that he did not know there was a prize and that he felt bad accepting it, as each of the other five runners who finished had worked as hard as he did—so he split the money equally between them, keeping none.