In 1983, Australian runner Cliff Young, stunned the Running World. He ran 875 kilometers (about 545 miles) in less than 6 days, breaking the record by 2 days. Having never run an ultra-marathon in his life, Cliff beat 10 other top athletes. Cliff was 61 years old and ran the race without sleeping. To continue reading the story, click here.
In 1983, Cliff Young, a 61 year old Australian potato farmer from Beech Forest, Victoria, entered the 7 Day Race in Colac, Victoria. This ultra-marathon is an 875 kilometer (approximately 545 miles) race from Westfield Sydney to Melbourne.
Runners from around the world came to compete. Most of these athletes were less than 30 years old, had sponsors, like Nike, and were decked out in their fancy running gear. The runners were conditioned for this grueling race and they had trained tirelessly for it.
In contrast, Cliff came in overalls, and galoshes over his work boots; the ones he always wore. Cliff had no formal training nor a coach, except for his mother. Most people laughed and snickered because he didn’t look like a runner and he was more than 30 years older than his competitors.
Cliff believed he was qualified to run the race because he had grown up on a sheep ranch. As a kid, when a storm was coming, he had to round up the sheep that were scattered over 2,000 acres. Sometimes it would take him 3 days to get the sheep. He figured the race was 5 days, so what was 2 more days of running.
When Cliff started the race he figured he could do it in 5 days. The previous winner had taken 7 days. Most runners would run for 18 hours and sleep for 6 hours. Cliff didn’t plan on stopping and didn’t. While everyone else slept, Cliff kept running. Actually, Cliff didn’t run like a runner. He shuffled which helped him conserve his energy.
Cliff didn’t stop the first day nor the second day. In fact, Cliff continued to run even though he was being “left behind” during the day, he was making up for it at night. On the last day, as everyone slept, Cliff passed his competition. By the time the other runners awoke, Cliff was too far ahead for anyone to catch up.
Cliff Young not only won the race but he beat the record by 2 days. The 2nd place winner was more than 9 hours behind him. He had finished the race in less than 6 days.
When asked how he had run the race without any sleep, he said, “I imagined I was chasing sheep and trying to outrun a storm.”
Cliff became a national hero that day but it wasn’t because he had won the race. When he was awarded the prize money of $10,000 he said he didn’t run for the money. He split his winnings between the other 5 racers who finished the race keeping nothing for himself.
To watch a short 2 minute video, click here.
Fourteen years later at the age of 75, Cliff Young planned to run the 16000 kilometers around Australia raising money for street kids. It took two years of planning to get permission to do this. When he started, he had one family that was helping him. After just 6,520 K, Cliff had to give up the race due to a team members illness.
Cliff Young continued to run in the ultra-marathon event and other runs until a mild stoke side-lined him in 2000. Cliff Young died of cancer in 2003. The Ultra-Marathon 7 Day Event hasn’t been held since 2006.
This story is a testament that IF YOU WANT IT, YOU CAN DO IT. Cliff was more than 30 years older than his competition. Cliff didn’t have the sponsors that the other athletes had. Cliff didn’t run the same way the others did.
He proved that being unique can be more rewarding as being like everyone else.
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