A legendary story in the running world, that if you have anything to do with ultramarathons will be a familiar tale. This is the story of Cliff Young, a 61-year-old potato farmer that decided one day to join an ultramarathon simply because he wanted to run in a race. He had no formal training for running ultramarathons and had never run one before.
Yet he decided to sign up for what is considered the most grueling ultramarathon in the world, Australia’s 543.7-mile race from Sydney to Melbourne. This race takes over five days to complete and generally only sees world-class athletes attempt to complete it. Usually, these athletes are under 30 years old and have sponsors such as Nike or Adidas.
In 1983, Cliff Young showed up for the start of the race, wearing overalls and working boots. And to everyone’s shock, he wasn’t here to watch, he picked up his race number and joined the other runners. He was told by the other runners and the press that he would never finish the race, to which he replied he would. Young had grown up on a 2,000-acre farm where they could not afford any type of tractor or horses, so whenever a storm rolled in, he would have to round up the 2,000 sheep & other animals just by running. This could sometimes mean he would be running for over 3 days just to round up all the farm animal.
When the race started, the professionals left Young far behind and the crowds found his running style extremely funny. In fact, it became famous: later referred to as the Cliff Shuffle. In fact, many feared for his safety. But Young had one ace in his sleeve, due to the fact he had never had any training he did not know that the professional athletes would run for 18 hours and sleep for 6 hours. Young did not know this and simply kept running through the night, when asked about his tactic, he claimed he would run the whole marathon without sleeping.
And every night he kept running, gaining on the leading pack, finally he overtook them during the night & just kept the lead. He set a new course record and scooped up the $10,000 prize. To which he promptly gave the next five athletes $2,000 keeping none of the prize money, an act which made him a national hero.