The oldest winner of the ultramarathon – meet Cliff Young

The Australian Ultramarathon was held from 1983 to 1991. Each start was attended by experienced athletes who trained for months in order to successfully overcome the distance of 864 km from Melbourne to Sydney. Most of the runners were under the age of 30. They were sponsored by major international brands: they provided high-quality sneakers and comfortable equipment. What was the surprise of the athletes when 61-year-old Cliff Young appeared on the track of a large-scale race. He was wearing overalls and galoshes over his boots.

Clifford-this is the full name of Young-was born in 1922 in a poor family. The boy spent his entire childhood on a family farm in Victoria, a state in the south-east of Australia. The area of the possessions was a little more than eight square kilometers.

Neither in his youth, nor when he grew up, Cliff was not fond of sports. The man’s sudden love for running woke up, it would seem, too late to reach great heights in a new business for himself. The farmer plunged into the conquest of long distances at the age of 57.

In 1982, when Young was 60 years old, he tried to run a thousand miles (about 1.6 thousand kilometers) around Memorial Square in the city of Kolak. The man wanted to break the world record, but could not. Fortunately, failure did not stop him on the way to impressive results. A year later, Cliff went to the start of the Australian super marathon to master the distance from Melbourne to Sydney.

On the day of the race, world-famous athletes were perplexed when they saw a 61-year-old man in the athletes ‘ zone. At first, everyone thought that Young came as a spectator. The guesses were dispelled when the man went to the registration table to get the number of the participant of the competition. Some witnesses of what was happening thought that the farmer had simply lost his mind, while others were seriously worried about his health and safety. After all, at this age, the body may not be able to withstand such enormous loads.

Young got the 64th number safely and got on the same line with the other runners. The film crew, who were at the start, hurried to interview an unusual participant. When the journalists found out that Cliff really intends to run an ultramarathon, and besides without sponsors and special training, they told him directly: “You can’t.” But the farmer was not at a loss.

“No, I can do it. I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or a car until very recently. Only 4 years ago I bought a car. When a storm was coming, I went out to drive the sheep. We had 2 thousand sheep grazing on 2 thousand 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 is only 2 days longer and is only 5 days, whereas I run after sheep for 3 days.”

When the marathon started, the professionals left Cliff far behind. Viewers from all over Australia watched the man, worried and even prayed for him: if only he would finish alive. At the same time, every experienced athlete knew that the distance of 864 kilometers takes about five days of travel. To do this, you need to run for 18 hours every day and sleep for 6. The farmer was not aware of this running plan.

The next morning after the start of the race, people found out that Young had not slept and had been running all night. But he was still lagging behind other athletes. Every night Cliff caught up with his rivals, until on the last day he broke ahead and finally went into a significant gap.

An Australian farmer has won the ultramarathon. It took him 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes to finish. 10 hours less than the result of the nearest opponent! To the surprise of the audience, Cliff did not take a single prize for himself. The man refused the amount of $ 10 thousand and distributed it to the other runners, dividing it equally. At that moment, the whole country fell in love with a new national hero.

A year after winning the ultramarathon, 62-year-old Cliff married a 23-year-old girl named Mary Howell. Their wedding was paid for by a chain of stores that sponsored the iconic race. However, after five years, the marriage broke up.

In the following years, Young did not give up his favorite business. He continued to run and in February 1990 took part in the first international 24-hour championship in the English city of Milton Keynes. And in November, he covered 648 kilometers in the Australian Campbelltown.

In 1997, Cliff again attracted public attention. He intended to run 16 thousand kilometers to raise money for homeless children. Unfortunately, the man had to interrupt the race after 6.5 thousand kilometers, because his teammate fell ill.

After that, Young faced a terrible disease-cancer. The man fought with her for five years. His last running achievement was the world record in the six-day marathon in 2000. And in 2003, Cliff died, he was 81 years old.

His unique running style was called Young Shuffle. It is considered energy-saving, and it continues to be used by modern ultramarathoners. In 2013, a documentary film called Cliffy was released about a farmer from Australia. Running enthusiasts and people looking for motivation still admire the abilities of Cliff Young. But once upon a time, he just wanted to win and was free from prejudice. He imagined a fleeing sheep in front of him and tried to catch up with it.

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