That Time a 61 Year Old Farmer Won One of the World's Most Grueling Athletic Competitions
The farmer won the ultra marathon at age 61 because he didn't know it was possible to sleep at a distance
The Australian Ultra Marathon was held from 1983 to 1991. Each start was attended by experienced athletes who trained for months in order to successfully cover the distance of 864 km from Melbourne to Sydney. Most of the runners were under 30. They were sponsored by major international brands: they provided quality sneakers and comfortable equipment. Imagine the surprise of the athletes when the 61-year-old Cliff Young appeared on the track of a large-scale race. In overalls and with galoshes over his boots.
Who is Cliff Young?
Clifford - that's how Young's full name sounds - was born in 1922 into a poor family. The boy spent all his childhood on a family farm in Victoria, a state in southeastern Australia. The property was a little over eight square kilometers.
Photo: John O'Gready / Getty Images
Neither in his youth, nor when he grew up, Cliff was not fond of sports. The man's sudden love for running woke up, it would seem, too late to reach great heights in a new business for himself. The farmer plunged into conquering long distances at the age of 57.
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From running after the sheep to winning the Australian ultramarathon
In 1982 when Young was 60 years old, he tried to run a thousand miles (about 1.6 thousand kilometers) around Memorial Square in Colak. The man wanted to break the world record, but could not. Fortunately, failure did not stop him on his way to impressive results. A year later, Cliff went to the start of the Australian super-marathon to cover the distance from Melbourne to Sydney.
On the day of the race, world-famous athletes were perplexed when they saw a 61-year-old man in the area for athletes. At first, everyone thought Young came as a spectator. Conjecture was dispelled when the man approached the registration desk to obtain the competitor's number. Some witnesses thought that the farmer was just out of his mind, while others were seriously worried about his health and safety. Indeed, at this age, the body may not withstand such colossal loads.
Photo: Tony Feder / Getty Images
Young safely got the 64th number and got on the same line with the other runners. The film crew, who were at the start, rushed to interview an unusual participant. When the journalists found out that Cliff really intended to run the ultramarathon, and besides, without sponsors and special training, they told him bluntly: You can't. But the farmer was not taken aback.
When the marathon started, the pros left Cliff far behind. Spectators from all over Australia watched the man, worried and even prayed for him: if only he would finish alive. Moreover, every experienced athlete knew that a distance of 864 kilometers takes about five days of travel. To do this, you need to run 18 hours and sleep 6 every day. The farmer was not aware of this running plan.
Photo : Fairfax Media / Getty Images
The morning after the race started, people learned that Young had not slept and had been running all night. But he still lagged behind other athletes. Cliff caught up with his rivals every night, until on the last day he took the lead and finally got a significant lead.
The Australian farmer won the ultra marathon. It took him 5 days 15 hours and 4 minutes to finish. 10 hours less than the closest rival! To the surprise of the public, Cliff did not take a single prize for himself. The man refused the $ 10 thousand and distributed it to the rest of the runners, dividing it equally. At that moment, the whole country fell in love with a new national hero.
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Young's life after a running triumph
A year after winning the ultramarathon, 62-year-old Cliff married a 23-year-old girl named Mary Howell. Their wedding was paid for by a chain of stores that sponsored the iconic race. True, after five years the marriage broke up.
In subsequent years, Young did not abandon his favorite business. He continued to run and in February 1990 took part in the first international 24-hour championship in the English city of Milton Keynes. And in November he covered 648 kilometers in Australian Campbelltown.
In 1997, Cliff again attracted public attention. He intended to run 16 thousand kilometers to raise money for homeless children. Unfortunately, the man had to interrupt the race after 6.5 thousand kilometers, because his teammate fell ill.
Photo: Tony Feder / Getty Images
After that, Young faced a terrible disease - cancer. The man fought her for five years. His most recent running achievement was a world record in a six-day marathon in 2000. And in 2003, Cliff died, he was 81.
His unique running style was named Young Shuffle. It is considered energy efficient and continues to be used by modern ultramarathon runners. In 2013, a documentary film called Cliffy was released about a farmer from Australia. Runners and mochi seekersvation, to this day, admire Cliff Young's abilities. But once upon a time he just wanted to win and was free from prejudice. He imagined a fleeing sheep in front of him and tried to catch up with her.