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The Sydney to Melbourne race snakes across Australia’s beautiful southeast corner, covering a distance of almost 550 miles. 

It’s considered a real man-killer even by seasoned ultra-runners who are used to racing across the hottest deserts and the coldest, most barren terrains on the planet. 


In 1983, Cliff Young decided to enter the inaugural event. 

Cliff was not your average athlete; he was not your average anything. 

Cliff was frequently responsible for rounding up cattle after violent thunderstorms as a cowhand.


He did this without the help of GPS, a Hummer, or small light aircraft. Instead, he ran around on foot after the cloven-hoofed scallawags over an area the size of a small US State.


He knew he had high stamina levels, which was another matter because most entrants were super-fit runners in their prime.


Cliff was 61 with little competitive experience. However, the one thing Cliff possessed in spades was a burning belief that he could and would complete the race. He didn’t have any self-limiting beliefs.


There were calls to ban him for his safety, but the rules excluded runners that were too young; nobody could see anything 

discriminating against people being too old. So the organizers reluctantly allowed Cliff to run.


It was a hot day in Sydney when Cliff wore overalls and galoshes over his work boots, inviting howls of derision from some of the 150 competitors and growing interest from the press and spectators.


The race started, and, to nobody’s surprise, the farmhand was soon lagging behind the seasoned runners.


He had an extraordinary way of running that meant he barely lifted his feet off the ground and moved forward, looking more like a cross-country skier than a marathon runner.


Halfway through the first night, Cliff instead remarkably took the lead. 

Rather than stopping for the traditional sleep break that most ultra runners took part in, Cliff took a fraction of the time the others took and kept eating pears straight out of a tin as he ran to give him energy.


By the following morning, much to the amazement of everybody, Cliff had built up a substantial lead.


It was an impressive performance, but the old-timer would inevitably relinquish his lead when he needed to stop for a proper break himself. 

Only he never needed to do so.


He believed that he could rest when the race was over.


Nobody had told Cliff he was supposed to stop for 6-hours every evening, so he kept running and running and running.


Cliff did the unexpected in finishing the race!


But he did the genuinely remarkable in not just winning it but amassing a staggering ten-hour winning margin.



  • Cliff Young decided what was possible for him. He set his life parameters and beliefs about what he could achieve, not his family, friends, or even society.
  • A 61-year-old amateur rewrote the book on distance running.


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