The Legend of 61 Year Old Cliff Young – Who Won World’s Toughest Marathon

December 20, 2008

Australia (ChattahBox) – Although he is one of the most famous names in modern Australian history, many don’t know of Cliff Young. He was the real life example of the Tortoise against the Hare, and perseverance winning over mastery. In 1983 he ran one of the most difficult races in the world, the 875 kilometer marathon (about 544 miles) that runs between Sydney and Melbourne.

At 61 years old, Cliff showed up at the starting line, dressed in his usual garb of overalls that as a farmer had become something like a second skin over the years. The highly trained athletes around him thought he was crazy, some were even concerned that he would hurt himself. After all, this is not your average race, and in order to win you have to run approximately 18 hours a day for 5 days straight, a challenge well beyond the capabilities of an old man.

But when told he wouldn’t be able to complete it, Cliff just replied, “Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d always catch them. I believe I can run this race.”

And so they were off, the athletes taking off quickly, Cliff shuffling behind with an odd sort of gait that didn’t give anyone confidence in his abilities.

The night came and went, and as the athletes woke from their meager 6 hours of slumber to begin racing once again, they were shocked to find that Cliff had taken quite a lot of ground, and had kept up quite well. This was due to one fact: he hadn’t slept. He had jogged along all night, and caught up with the athletes as they took their rest.

For several nights this continued, with him gaining more and more ground on the trained professionals who had worked for years to be able to endure this marathon. And then one evening he did it; Cliff reached the finish line and took a new world record for the fastest ever completion of the grueling race.

When he was offered the $10,000 prize money, he refused to take it, saying he had never done it for the cash, had not even known there would be any. He ended up splitting it amongst the other runners in an act of kindness that only added to the legend that in less then a week he had forever made.

Cliff Young passed away at the age of 81 years old in 2003, after having attempted two more milestones, one for charity, that while he didn’t complete, once against endeared him to the world. The ‘Young-shuffle’, that odd gait he used to win the marathon, is still used today to help racers preserve energy as they run, and staying awake and running through the night has become an almost official rule to the Australian marathon he once ran.

Because if they can’t do it like Cliff, why do it at all?



2 Responses to “The Legend of 61 Year Old Cliff Young – Who Won World’s Toughest Marathon”

  1. Phil Essam on December 21st, 2008 3:26 am

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