The World's Toughest Race
Dear Valued Client:
I read with interest several accounts of a true story that was so magnificent, that it has a legendary feeling to it. I wanted to share it with you.
The World’s Toughest Race
Imagine this scene for a moment. The ultra marathon of 543.7 miles of endurance running from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia in 19831 was about to begin. Picture the registration table with world-class athletes signing in wearing shoes and running clothes of companies who backed them for the race.
Along came a man who appeared to be a spectator since he was 61 years of age, and was wearing overalls and work boots. But to everyone’s surprise, Cliff Young, a potato farmer, picked up his race number and joined the other runners at the starting line.
The press and other athletes out of curiosity started questioning him because they knew there wasn’t a way that he could finish this race—most of the other participants were highly trained and under age 30. They were concerned for his health. They knew that the race generally took 5 days to complete.2 Cliff explained why he thought he could finish the race by explaining that he grew up on a farm where his family couldn’t afford horses or four-wheel drives. So, whenever storms would roll in, he would have to go out and round up the sheep sometimes for two to three days straight. He figured that this race was only two days more, and he said, “I believe I can run this race.”
Well, it didn’t take long after the race began, that the elite runners were way ahead of Cliff. The spectators and media watched Cliff with interest as they saw that he was not even running properly. Some spectators thought the whole thing must be a publicity stunt, because he wasn’t really running, it was more like a shuffle. Everyone but Cliff knew that the formula and strategy that was needed to finish this race was to run 18 hours and then sleep for 6 hours, and then continue. But as the morning of the second day came, Cliff was still in the race; he had continued to run right through the first night without stopping! His unique strategy was to keep running straight to the finish line taking no time out for sleeping or resting. This tactic got him a little closer to the leading runners every night.
I read with anticipation to hear how long he lasted with this quest. I couldn’t believe what I was learning—that during the final night of the race, Cliff had finally caught up and passed the pack of the front running athletes while they were sleeping! (This reminds me of the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare.) That next day he crossed the finish line first after 5 days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes! This was a new course record beating it by 9 hours, and also beat his competitors by a large margin.3
Reporters asked him how he did it, and he answered that he just pretended he was searching for sheep and trying to outrun a storm. When he was awarded the prize of $10,000, he had no idea there was an award; so he chose to give it to several other runners who he felt needed it more than he did.
His “Young-shuffle” has actually been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more energy efficient. And now modern competitors do not sleep during this race either!
There are multiple lessons one can learn from this story, but perhaps one basic truth is that life holds many races for us that we have to run, and win. We don’t have to run our races perfectly, we just need to do our own “shuffle,” but with strong determination doing what we do best, and with the belief that we can do it.
David M. Gallagher
1Article, “The Legend of Cliff Young: The 61 Year Old Farmer Who Won the World’s Toughest Race” at www.elitefeet.com/the-legend-of-cliff-young
3From the article, “Cliff Young – the farmer who inspired a nation” at http://www.my-inspirational-quotes.com/inspirational-stories/cliff-young/
Reference for facts: www.elitefeet.com/the-legend-of-cliff-young