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About Everything Wiki » Fitness » How a 61-year-old man won a five-day marathon at 875 km

How a 61-year-old man won a five-day marathon at 875 km

03 May 2023, 13:17, parser
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We offer you the most interesting story of Cliff Young, who won the Australian marathon at the age of 61. Cliff's childish naivety and his minimalism in life are striking. It seems we have something to learn from him!

In 1982, Cliff Young tried to run 1,000 miles around Memorial Square in Colac to break the world record. Unfortunately, Cliff's attempt failed, but this failure did not cool his ardor. The following year he took part in the first super marathon from Melbourne to Sydney (Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon).

Everyone thought he was a crazy old man (Cliff turned 61 at the time), and some even feared that Cliff would die before reaching the finish line. But Cliff proved everyone wrong.

The distance of the super marathon is 875 kilometers, which takes approximately 5 days from start to finish. The race usually involves world-class athletes who train specifically for this event. For the most part, athletes are under 30 years old and are sponsored by such big brands as Nike, which provide athletes with uniforms and sneakers.

How it all started

In 1983, these world-class athletes were at a loss when 61-year-old Cliff Young appeared at the start on the day of the race.

At first, everyone thought that he had come to watch the start of the race, as he was wearing overalls and galoshes over his boots. But when Cliff came to the table to get the number of the participant of the race, everyone realized that he intended to run with everyone. Back then, no one knew that Cliff's only coach was his own 81-year-old mother.

When Cliff got the number 64 and lined up with other athletes, the camera crew (doing a report from the starting point) decided to take a short interview with him. The camera was pointed at Cliff and asked:

— "Hello! Who are you and what are you doing here?"

— "I'm Cliff Young. We raise sheep on a large pasture near Melbourne."

— "Are you really going to participate in this race?"

— "Yes."

— "Do you have a sponsor?"

— "No."

— "Then you can't run."

— "Yes, no, I can." Cliff replied. "Listen, I grew up on a farm where we couldn't afford horses or a car, until very recently, when 4 years ago I bought a car. When a storm was coming, I went out to drive the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep grazing on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I caught sheep for 2-3 days — it was not easy, but I always caught them. I think I can participate in the race, because it's only 2 days longer, only 5 days when I run after sheep for 3 days."

When the marathon started, the professionals left Cliff in his galoshes far behind. The crowd laughed at him as he couldn't even get off to a proper start.

On TV, people watched Cliff, worried and prayed that he would not die along the way.

Turtle and rabbits

Every professional knew that it would take about 5 days to complete the distance, and for this it would take 18 hours to run and 6 hours to sleep every day. Cliff Young didn't know that!

The next morning after the start, people found out that Cliff did not sleep, but continued to run all night, reaching the town of Mittagong.


Photo © SMH

But even without stopping to sleep, Cliff was far behind all the athletes, although he continued to run, while managing to greet people standing along the race track.

When he reached the next Albury town, Cliff was asked about his tactics until the end of the race. He replied that he would run across the finish line.

And Cliff ran. Every night he got closer to the leaders of the race, and on the last night Cliff beat all the world-class athletes. By the morning of the last day, he was far ahead of everyone. Cliff not only ran a super marathon at the age of 61 without dying along the way, but also won it, breaking the 9-hour race record and became a national hero!

Cliff Young completed a race of 875 kilometers in 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes. Not knowing that athletes could sleep, he imagined a fleeing sheep in front of him and tried to catch up with it.


Photo © NLA

When Cliff was awarded the first prize of A$10,000, he said that he did not know about the existence of the prize and did not participate in the race for the money. Without hesitation, Cliff said that he was giving money to the first five athletes who came running after him, for A $2,000 each. Cliff didn't keep a dime for himself and the whole of Australia just fell in love with him.

The race continues

The following year Cliff Young again participated in the race, taking 7th place. During the race, Cliff's hip popped out of the joint, the knee went up and he had to put a splint on his shin. But that didn't stop him from continuing the race. When at the finish Cliff was named the most courageous participant of the race and presented with a Mitsubishi Colt car, he replied: "I don't need a car like old Bob (Bob McIlwaine). Hey, Bob, you have a car now." and handed over the car keys.

As they say, Cliff Young did not take a single prize for himself. One day people gave him a watch because he didn't have one. Cliff thanked the people so as not to offend them, but gave the watch to the first child who came across him on the road. Cliff didn't understand why he needed a watch, because he knows when it's day and when it's night and when he's hungry.


Photo © SMH

In 1997, at the age of 76, Cliff Young tried to run around Australia to raise money for homeless children. He managed to run 6,520 kilometers out of 16,000 before the only person from his team got sick.

Cliff Young died on November 2, 2003, at the age of 81.

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