Just when you think you're tough enough

Tough Takes

Cliff Young, the runner who didn’t sleep

Once upon a time, there lived a potato farmer in one of the Australian country sides. He ploughed the land, he gathered the sheep and more importantly he believed in himself. He was meant for great things, as all the characters in fairy tales are meant to go great distances and reach great heights. This is the story of Cliff Young.

Photo credit: Wikipedia
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Every year, Australia hosts an 875 kilometre endurance race, from Sydney all the way to Melbourne. Dressed in overalls and his farming boots, Mr. Cliff Young turned up at the race. Everyone was pretty sure he was going to be a spectator, but they were wrong. Shocking or rather confusing everybody, he picked up a race bib number. You see the people who joined this race were pro-athletes, sponsored by big brands such as Nike.

Cliff Young was unheard of, unknown of. The press and the pros questioned him. They told him, ‘You’re Crazy! There is no way you can finish this race.’ to which he curtly replied,

‘Yes I can. I believe I can run this.’

The race started and the Pros left Cliff behind. Everyone loves a story like this – a lunatic on the loose. The crowd and the media were entertained. Cliff wasn’t even running properly, it was more like shuffling. People were even worried for Cliff’s safety.

Cliff kept on running.

The next morning, to everyone’s surprise, Cliff was still in the race – not only was he still running, he ran all night. He did the same thing, all night, every night. Whilst all the young world class athletes were sleeping, he kept on running, surpassing all of them. It really is like the story of the tortoise and the hare. Cliff crossed the finishing line taking the championship title and also setting a new record for the race course.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images


Despite everyone’s doubts, in the face of adversity Cliff emerged. That is the running spirit. Cliff’s running style is a now a famous move known as ‘the young shuffle’. Many athletes use his style to run in ultramarathons as it expands less energy. Many of Cliff’s successors have adopted this strategy and continued Cliff’s footsteps to win the race.

This happened in 1983, and yet he still sparks interest and inspiration till today. He has become a true legend, a true someone to look up to.

Watch a motivational video on Cliff Young here.


MellisaLimMelissa Lim is a runner and all-things-outdoor enthusiast. She aims to inspire people to be as passionate as she is through writing. Follow Melissa on her blog.