Cliff Young: The Unforgettable Ultra Marathon Runner


In the world of sports, we often witness remarkable stories of athletes who defy the odds and achieve greatness. One such extraordinary tale is that of Cliff Young, an Australian potato farmer who astonished the world with his unexpected victory in the grueling Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon. In this article, we delve into the inspiring journey of Cliff Young, his unique approach to running, and the valuable life lessons we can learn from his triumph.

The Origins of Cliff Young

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Cliff Young greeted the cheering crowds while participating in his ultramarathon. Source: The Age Archives

Cliff Young, born on February 8, 1922, in Beech Forest, Victoria, Australia, came from humble beginnings that would shape his remarkable journey as an athlete. Growing up on a sheep and potato farm, Cliff developed a deep connection with the land and embraced the physically demanding lifestyle that came with it.

Living on the farm instilled in Cliff a strong work ethic, resilience, and a tenacious spirit that would later propel him to achieve greatness. The daily tasks of tending to the sheep and working the fields exposed him to long hours of physical labor, which unknowingly built his endurance and stamina.

Cliff’s upbringing in the rural countryside played a crucial role in shaping his character and instilling values such as discipline, perseverance, and a deep appreciation for the natural world. He grew up with an intimate understanding of the land and the challenges that came with farming, fostering a connection to the Australian landscape that would become a significant part of his story.

While Cliff Young was not an athlete in his younger years, his upbringing provided him with a solid foundation of physical fitness and mental fortitude. Little did he know that these qualities would later manifest in an extraordinary feat that would capture the world’s attention.

As we delve into Cliff Young’s journey, we discover how his rural origins and upbringing as a farmer set the stage for an astonishing chapter in the annals of sports history.

The Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon: A Legendary Race

The Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon is one of the most grueling endurance races in the world, covering a distance of approximately 875 kilometers (544 miles). The event attracted elite athletes from around the globe, each vying for the prestigious title. In 1983, Cliff Young, at the age of 61, entered the race, standing out as an unlikely contender amongst the seasoned professionals.

Cliff Young’s Unconventional Training Methods

While most participants adopted a strategy of running for 18 hours and resting for 6 hours each day, Cliff Young had a different approach. Due to his lack of formal training and unfamiliarity with conventional methods, he decided to utilize his farming experience. Cliff trained by running through the fields for extended periods, often running nonstop for days while tending to his sheep.

The Race Begins: Cliff Young’s Remarkable Start

On the day of the race, Cliff Young’s attire was far from the professional running gear donned by his competitors. He wore a simple pair of overalls, gumboots, and a battered hat. As the race commenced, the other runners surged ahead, leaving Cliff behind. However, something unexpected happened as the hours went by.

Cliff Young’s Determination and Endurance

cliff young skin cancer
When questioned by inquisitive reporters, Cliff Young revealed that he opted for long pants as a precaution against skin cancer. Source: The Age Archives

Cliff Young’s unorthodox running style was captivating the nation. With his short, shuffling steps and a relentless pace, he defied all expectations. While the other runners took breaks to sleep, Cliff kept going, pushing his body beyond its limits. His determination, coupled with an unwavering belief in himself, propelled him forward, surpassing one runner after another.

A Nation Inspired: Cliff Young’s Impact on Australia

cliff young ultramarathon
On the final day of the ultramarathon, Cliff Young maintained a healthy lead over the competition. Source: The Age Archives

As news of Cliff Young’s incredible race spread, the Australian public rallied behind him. People were amazed by the sheer tenacity and humility of this unassuming potato farmer. His inspiring story touched the hearts of millions, uniting the nation in support of his audacious pursuit. The media, captivated by the underdog narrative, covered his journey extensively, turning Cliff into a national hero.

Lessons from Cliff Young’s Triumph

  1. Never underestimate the power of perseverance: Cliff Young’s unwavering determination teaches us that with persistence, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.
  2. Embrace your uniqueness: Cliff’s unconventional approach shows us that embracing our individuality can lead to unexpected success.
  3. Age is just a number: Cliff Young’s accomplishment at the age of 61 reminds us that it’s never too late to chase our dreams and achieve greatness.
  4. Support and unity are essential: Cliff’s story demonstrates the incredible impact of a supportive community and the strength that comes from collective encouragement.
  5. Believe in yourself: Cliff Young’s self-belief and unwavering confidence serve as a powerful reminder that our mindset can shape our outcomes.


Cliff Young’s triumph in the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon is a testament to the extraordinary potential within each of us. His inspiring journey from a potato farm to a world-renowned athlete captivated the world and left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Cliff Young’s story serves as a timeless reminder that with determination, resilience, and a belief in oneself, we can achieve greatness.

1. Was Cliff Young the oldest participant in the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon?

No, Cliff Young was not the oldest participant in the race. However, he was considered older than most of the other competitors.

2. Did Cliff Young win the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon?

Yes, Cliff Young emerged as the surprising winner of the race, defying all expectations.

3. How did Cliff Young train for the race?

Cliff Young trained by running through the fields of his farm for extended periods, emulating his farming experience.

4. Did Cliff Young inspire other athletes to adopt his running style?

Cliff Young’s unique running style did inspire some athletes to experiment with different techniques, but it did not become widespread.

5. What happened to Cliff Young after his victory?

Following his victory, Cliff Young retired from professional racing and returned to his farm, where he continued his life as a humble potato farmer.

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