World-class track and field athletes were bewildered when 61-year-old farmer Cliff Young showed up at the start line on race day. Some feared that Cliff would die before reaching the finish line.
Everyone thought he was a crazy old man (Cliff was 61 then), and some were even afraid that Cliff would die before reaching the finish line. But Cliff proved everyone they were wrong.
The distance of the Super Marathon is 875 kilometers, which takes approximately 5 days from start to finish. The race usually features world-class track and field athletes who train specifically for the event. Most of the athletes are under 30 years old and are sponsored by big brands such as Nike, which provide athletes with uniforms and sneakers.
How it all began
In 1983, these world-class track and field athletes were at a loss when 61-year-old Cliff Young showed up at the start on race day.
At first, everyone thought that he came to watch the start of the race, as he was dressed in work overalls and galoshes over boots. But when Cliff went to the table to get the number of the race participant, everyone understood that he intended to run with everyone. Then no one knew that Cliff's only coach was his own 81-year-old mother.
When Cliff got number 64 and lined up with the other athletes, the camera crew (reporting from the start) decided to interview him a little. They pointed the camera at Cliff and asked:
- “Hi! 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 run this race?"
- "Do you have a sponsor?"
- "Then you can't run."
- "No, I can." replied Cliff. “Look, I grew up on a farm where we couldn't afford horses or a car until very recently when I bought a car 4 years ago. When a storm came up, I went out to herd 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 run the race because it's only 2 days longer, only 5 days when I'm chasing sheep for 3 days.”
When the marathon started, the pros left Cliff in his galoshes far behind. The crowd laughed at him as he couldn't even start properly.
On TV, people watched Cliff, worried and prayed that he would not die along the way.
Every professional knew that it would take about 5 days to complete the distance and for this you need to run 18 hours a day and 6 hours of sleep. Cliff Young didn't know that!
The next morning after the start, people learned that Cliff did not sleep, but continued to run all night, reaching the town of Mittagong.
But even without stopping to sleep, Cliff was far behind all the athletes, although he continued to run, while still managing to greet people standing along the race track.
When he reached the next town of Albury, Cliff was asked about his tactics for the remainder of the race. He replied that he would run across the finish line.
And Cliff fled. 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 running record and becoming a national hero!
Cliff Young fell ill in a 875 km race in 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes. Not knowing that athletes can sleep, he imagined a fleeing sheep in front of him and tried to catch up with her.
When Cliff was awarded the first prize of A$10,000, he said he did not know the prize existed and that he was not in the race for the money. Without hesitation, Cliff said he was giving away the money to the first five athletes who ran after him, A$2,000 each. Cliff left no price for himself and the whole of Australia just fell in love with him.
The following year, Cliff Young was in the race again, finishing in 7th place. During the race, Cliff's hip popped out of joint, his knee went up and he had to put a splint on his shin. But that didn't stop him from continuing the run. When at the finish line Cliff was named the most courageous participant in the race and presented with a Mitsubishi Colt car, he replied: “I don’t need a car like old Bob (Bob McIlwaine). Hey Bob, now you have a car." and handed over the car keys.
Cliff Young is said not to have taken a single prize. 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 he met on the road. Cliff did not understand why he needed a watch, because he knew when it was day and when it was night and when he was hungry.
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 on his team got sick.
Cliff Young died on November 2, 2003, at the age of 81.