This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010
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Cliffy's Book - By Cliff Young
Cliff Young shocked the world of ultrarunning in 1983 when he won Australia's big-time Sydney to Melbourne Race as a 61-year-old farmer. He covered the 875 kilometre distance in 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes, defeating legends like George Perdon, Siggy Bauer, John Hughes, Tony Rafferty and Bob Bruner. He's still running today.
When Cliff Young won the inaugural Westfield Sydney-to-Melbourne in May 1983 his first port of call was Studio Nine at Channel Nine for the Don Lane Show. I think it's fair to say that our show helped in no small way to begin the legend that has surrounded this marvellous character since that historic run.
I clearly remember the studio audience standing as one to applaud and pay homage to a newly acquired hero. However, little did Don and I know that the retirement age athlete sharing the wheel spot with us was more than the winner of a long distance race. He was a genuine home grown icon waiting to be discovered. And discovered he was.
The hundreds of thousands of television viewers on that night who took him to their hearts proved to be simply an advance party for the rest of Australia, who eventually marvelled at not just his achievements but at the man himself. He was a country boy who had a philosophy, attitude and soul that was surely the reincarnation of all that we believed our Australian pioneers to have been. I remember thinking after the show that I hoped this bloke was for real.
Over the weeks, months and years that have followed we all know that Cliffy is indeed the genuine article. What you see is what you get and you get plenty - strength, humour, doggedness, humility, courage and a spirit that defies the odds and inspires us all to take on challenges simply because they are there.
Cliffy's journey has been far from easy but as his book relates, this great bloke met life head on and won in the things that really matter.
Excerpt from Cliffy's Book:"I started to get a woozy head. I was being smothered as we went along Sydney Road, through Coburg and on to Brunswick. I was choking. I needed clean air. After all I'd been through I didn't want it all to end for lack of clean air when I was so near.
"For seven hours, I'd gone non-stop save for trips to the loo. No food, no drink, no sleep. I just wanted it to end. The momentum of all those people just kept pushing me along; I was caught in a wave pressing me towards a shore. Hell, George Perdon was then running second, but was 50 miles back. I could have crawled on all fours and still won...
"Just a few more yards, I said to myself through all the noise of fire engine sirens, fireworks and cheers from the crowd. The noise was deafening, and after marking practically every tree from Sydney to Melbourne, I was desperate to go to the loo again. I breasted the tape, my trip to hell and back over." (Page 50)