Belief in something sometimes is all it takes to get you through. I never will say I can’t do something before I try. After reading about Cliff Young this week, I know that certainly, the quote “If you believe it, you can achieve it” rings true.
In 1983 at age 61, Cliff decided he wanted to run a race. He never had entered a race, let alone a marathon or an ultramarathon, but he decided to run a race from Sydney to Melbourne in Australia, where he lived. This is a 543.7-mile race.
Cliff was a farmer and grew up taking care of sheep on 2,000 acres of pasture. He figured he was qualified because he would run gathering his sheep with no horse or four-wheeler. So Cliff showed up for this race in true farmer fashion: in his overalls and overboots in case it rained. He had never had a trainer and didn’t read about long-distance running. He just believed he could do it.
People made fun of him for the way he ran with his chest out and kind of shuffling his feet. They even feared for his safety. The media followed him not because they thought he could do it but because of how goofy he looked, and they thought it would make a great story. Well they were right. It made a great story.
The other racers had trained for years for this race. They had trainers by their sides and coaches following. They knew that to complete the race in an efficient time, they would run for eighteen hours and sleep for six, taking about seven days to finish. They knew what to eat and drink to keep their bodies nourished during the run.
In one clip I saw, Cliff was drinking a jar of milk while others were eating bowls of high-carb food while they ran. He also didn’t know that at night, the other runners had planned to sleep. Not Cliff. When he ran after sheep, he didn’t sleep for days until his sheep were gathered. So, he ran straight through the night.
By the last night, Cliff was ahead of all of the elite runners. This 61-year-old who never had run a real race steadily went on while others slept. He was all but counted out at the beginning of the race, but Cliff was the first to cross the finish line in 1983. He set a record by finishing in five days, 15 hours and 4 minutes. This was almost two days faster than anyone had completed before.
They gave Cliff $10,000 when he passed the finish line. He didn’t even know there was a prize for winning the race. He said he didn’t enter for money, and he split the money with the other runners.
Cliff Young’s story has touched my heart in many ways. First, he definitely shows that if you believe you can do something, nothing should hold you back. Second, if you are struggling, like running in the dark, just keep going. You eventually will come out ahead. And last, when you work for something, you don’t always need an award. Knowing you did your best can be its own reward. I hope, this year, to be a little more like Cliff Young.