THE CLIFF YOUNG SHUFFLE
No, this is not an article about the latest dance moves or exercise. Picture this:
1983. Sydney, Australia. It’s the beginning of the Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Race, an ultra-marathon race of 875 km, from Sydney to Melbourne, which was considered the world’s toughest and longest race at that time. It was popular among the top class marathon runners at the time, most of them being between 20- 30 years of age and super-fit.
Imagine their surprise when an old man named Cliff Young (61 years old) with no teeth, wearing overalls and work boots, signed up for the race. Thinking it was a publicity stunt, the race organizers tried to discourage him from participating when they learned that he had no marathon experience and was going to run the way he was dressed. They feared that he might die during the race!
Cliff insisted on running, saying that he was raised on a sheep farm and was used to chasing his 2,000 odd sheep around his 2,000 acre farm. Finally the organizers agreed to let Cliff run, thinking he would soon drop out of the race. When the race started, the runners left Cliff far behind, to slowly shuffle along. For 3 days, Cliff was last, far behind all the others. People and the media made fun of him. However, he did not stop for sleep like the others. By shuffling non-stop every day, he got closer to the lead runner each day.
On the last night of the race, the miracle happened. Cliff overtook the lead runners, who were asleep, and won the race by a record 9 hours less than the previous record! He finished the race in 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes. Truly a case of the tortoise beating the hare!
He gave away the prize money of A$10,000 to the other runners because he did not run for the money and the others deserved it. He said that he ran to prove to himself that he could do it. Nowadays, marathon runners use the Cliff Young Shuffle style because it expends less energy than running.
I learnt some lessons from this story and I would like to share some with you:
1. Never judge a person by their appearance- it’s what’s inside those counts. Cliff’s drive and determination inspired a whole nation and a whole new way of running marathons.
2. We are never too old to learn and achieve- all it takes is the right preparation, definite target and positive attitude.
3. Never listen to the naysayers – people will try to discourage you when you attempt something different than they are used to. If you are truly 100% committed, DO IT ANYWAY.
4. Fight prejudice- people may mock you if you are different. Be true to your heart. Let’s not teach our children our prejudices or pre-conceived notions. Life is too short to be filled with prejudice and sadness.
5. Think outside the box- when challenged; be positively creative in thinking of solutions. Cliff ran all night for 5 days, something that never occurred to the other top class runners.
6. Compete with yourself, not others- we often compete to be better than others. To be the best, we have to compete with ourselves so we can reach our highest potential.
7. Above all, be yourself no matter what. Being true to yourself is the best reward there is.
For the record, Cliff was active in running races well into his later years. Cliff passed away, aged 81 on November 2, 2003. He was the first of his six brothers and sisters to pass on. On his death, his sister commented “"He is the first of us to go, but then he was always on the go". What an epitaph to have!
If a 61 year old potato farmer can win an 875km ultra marathon, think of what WE can achieve if we decide to go for our goals, like Cliff. Be inspired. Be motivated. Live life on your terms before there is no life left to live.