Cliff Young was a walk-on Ultra-Marathoner. He shuffled up to the start of an 875 Kilometer (543 Miles) Ultra Marathon, his first race, and won. He broke the course record by 9 hours. Oh – and he was 61 Years Old.
End of the road for Cliff
November 3, 2003 – 3:42PM
Ultra-marathon legend Cliff Young – who died at home in Queensland yesterday aged 81 following a long illness – shuffled his way into Australia’s heart in 1983 with his shock win at the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne marathon.
The nation fell in love with the 61-year-old potato farmer who came out of nowhere to defeat the nation’s best long distance runners.
He became famous for his shuffle running style and for wearing gumboots and long trousers while training more than 30km daily at his Victorian farming property.
Friend and ultra-marathon historian Philip Essam said while many remembered these eccentricities, people in the sport credited Cliff for revolutionising it after he won the Sydney to Melbourne marathon.
Back then, Cliff’s coach made the famous mistake of waking him three hours early at 2am to start the first night of racing.
By the time they realised the mistake, Cliff was ahead of the field and continued the winning tactic for the rest of the 875km race, Mr Essam said.
It was now a standard practice in the sport, he said.
The “Young-shuffle” has also been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more aerodynamic and expends less energy, he said.
Australian Ultra Runners Association president Ian Cornelius said Cliff’s humble and ordinary personality helped make him the nation’s most famous ultra marathon runner in the sport’s history.
“He was an ordinary guy who achieved extraordinary things,” he said.
“He was wonderful for our sport and will be sadly missed by all in the ultra-marathon community.”
Clean living, hard training and a competitive spirit made him a successful athlete, Mr Cornelius said.
In 1984 at the height of his stardom, Cliff married Mary Howell when he was 62 and she was 23. They have since divorced.
Cliff came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he attempted to become the oldest man to run around Australia and raise money for homeless children.
Cliff completed 6,520km of the 16,000km run before he had to pull out after his only permanent crew member became ill.
Cliff grew up in the Victorian Otways and inherited his father’s farm in Beech Forest and worked with brother Sid, 73, who now lives in Colac.
Colac Otway Shire Council Mayor Jim Ryan described Cliff as one of the region’s favourite sons.
“Many people say Colac was Cliff Young,” he said.
“He will be remembered very fondly because he was friendly towards everyone and everyone admired him.”
Cliff stopped racing three years ago after a mild stroke.
However his friend of 28 years Gary Parsons said Cliff still liked to have a run as recently as six months ago.
Cliff moved to Queensland in recent years and had been living with his former manager Helen Powers and her twin daughters Bridgette and Paula.
He enjoyed walks along the beach and tended a vegetable garden at his new home until ill-health struck him.
Mr Parsons, who last saw Cliff on Thursday, said Mr Young had been adopted by the Powers family and lived a very happy life in Queensland.
Cliff’s sister Helen Simmons, 83, said he had suffered several strokes recently and his body was worn with age.
“It was just old age, he had been very low for the last fortnight, we were expecting it to happen,” she said.
Cliff is survived by his six brothers and sisters Anne, 85, Helen, 83, Margaret, 79, Barry 77, Eunice 75 and Sid 73.
“He is the first of us to go, but then he was always on the go,” Mrs Simmonds said.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/03/1067708126175.html
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