Cliff Young was the unexpected winner of the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon in 1983.  The run took him five days, fifteen hours and four minutes–almost two days faster than the previous record.

At the time Cliff was a sixty-one year old potato farmer who had never competed, and who had not received any training.  How did he do it?

The other runners would run for eighteen hours and then sleep for six hours.  Not Cliff. According to news reports, while the others slept, Cliff kept running.  His slow, loping technique has since been dubbed the “Cliff Young Shuffle”.  This technique has been adopted by other ultra marathoners because it expends less energy.

At the time of the race, Cliff Young’s feat made him a national hero.  He was a humble man without any pretensions.  Not knowing there was a $10,000.00 prize, he gave his winnings away to his fellow competitors.

Cliff’s story resonates on many levels.  It is clear that human beings are capable of overcoming obstacles that appear daunting.  Cliff believed he could finish this race, and as it progressed, he believed he could win.  He unleashed the power of his mind, of his belief.

Also, Cliff did not allow negative thoughts and anxieties to overcome him.  He stayed centered and very much in the present moment.

Stressful events can cause us to get ahead of ourselves, taking potential outcomes well beyond where reason would lead us.  Most of us create our own sufferings, or at least make them worse, by over thinking.

It is in this aspect that Cliff Young has something to teach all of us.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney