The Legend of Cliff Young: The 61 Year Old Farmer Who Won the World’s Toughest Race
* Written by: Shane
* December 30th, 2007
The legendary story of Cliff Young is already known to many runners. If you're aren't familiar with it, you're in for a fascinating read.
Every year, Australia hosts 543.7-mile (875-kilometer) endurance racing from Sydney to Melbourne. It is considered among the world's most grueling ultra-marathons. The race takes five days to complete and is normally only attempted by world-class athletes who train specially for the event. These athletes are typically less than 30 years old and backed by large companies such as Nike.
In 1983, a man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of this race. Cliff was 61 years old and wore overalls and work boots. To everyone's shock, Cliff wasn't a spectator. He picked up his race number and joined the other runners.
The press and other athletes became curious and questioned Cliff. They told him, "You're crazy, there's no way you can finish this race." To which he replied, "Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn't afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I'd have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I'd always catch them. I believe I can run this race."
When the race started, the pros quickly left Cliff behind. The crowds and television audience were entertained because Cliff didn't even run properly; he appeared to shuffle. Many even feared for the old farmer's safety.
The Tortoise and the Hare
All of the professional athletes knew that it took about 5 days to finish the race. In order to compete, one had to run about 18 hours a day and sleep the remaining 6 hours. The thing is, Cliff Young didn't know that!
When the morning of the second day came, everyone was in for another surprise. Not only was Cliff still in the race, he had continued jogging all night.
Eventually Cliff was asked about his tactics for the rest of the race. To everyone's disbelief, he claimed he would run straight through to the finish without sleeping.
Cliff kept running. Each night he came a little closer to the leading pack. By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes. He was the first competitor to cross the finish line and he set a new course record.
When Cliff was awarded the winning prize of $10,000, he said he didn't know there was a prize and insisted that he did not enter for the money. He ended up giving all of his winnings to several other runners, an act that endeared him to all of Australia.
In the following year, Cliff entered the same race and took 7th place. Not even a displayed hip during the race stopped him.
Cliff came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he attempted to raise money for homeless children by running around Australia's border. He completed 6,520 kilometers of the 16,000-kilometer run before he had to pull out because his only crew member became ill. Cliff Young passed away in 2003 at age 81.
Today, the "Young-shuffle" has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more energy-efficient. At least three champions of the Sydney to Melbourne race have used the shuffle to win the race. Furthermore, during the Sydney to Melbourne race, modern competitors do not sleep. Winning the race requires runners to go all night as well as all day, just like Cliff Young.
DANBURY, Conn. – On the day that Donald Peters died, he unknowingly provided financial security for his wife of 59 years and their family.
Peters bought two Connecticut Lottery tickets at a local 7-Eleven store on Nov. 1 as part of a 20-year tradition he shared with his wife Charlotte. Later that day, the 79-year-old retired hat factory worker suffered a fatal heart attack while working in his yard in Danbury.
On Friday, his widow cashed in one of the tickets: a $10 million winner which, in her grief over her husband's death, she had put aside and almost discarded before recently checking the numbers.
"I'm numb," Charlotte Peters, 78, said at Connecticut Lottery headquarters in Rocky Hill.
Donald Peters usually bought the tickets for 10 weeks at a stretch, so the winning ticket he bought Nov. 1 for the Dec. 2 drawing was among several that Charlotte Peters put aside as she, their three children and two grandchildren coped with his sudden death.
"I was in the grocery store and I had it checked and they told me I was a winner," she said. "I had no idea how much it was."
She said she thought she had won $6 million but was surprised to learn from lottery officials she'd won $10 million.
Charlotte Peters has 60 days to decide whether to take a $6 million pre-tax lump sum payment or stretch the winnings into 21 yearly payments of almost $477,300 each.
She does not yet know what she will do with the money.
"I've always wanted a Corvette, but I don't think I'll buy one. I'll stick to a small car. I might go to Mohegan Sun," she said, referring to the casino in Connecticut. "I'm going to go home and sit and think."
The Peters children think their father would have appreciated the irony.
"He'd be very mad, he just passed away and she won a lot of money," said Brian Peters, one of the couple's three children. "He'd say, 'Figures!'"
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