Today in 1983, 40 years ago today, the start of the first ever Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon.

The race was won by a guy you wouldn’t have expected to finish first.

His name was Cliff Young.

He was 61 years old and had arthritis in both legs.

He was a shepherd and a potato farmer who was competing against much better known and arguably more accomplished runners.

At the start of the race he was wearing his first-ever pair of running shoes, plus a pair of windbreaker pants in which he’d cut a few holes for ventilation.

And when he ran, he almost didn’t run.

It was just a slow, ambling shuffle.

No surprise that in the early going, the other runners were way ahead of him.

But Cliff Young turned out to be a much more effective distance runner than he looked to be on paper.

Young said his family couldn’t afford farm equipment or even horses, so when it was time to round up the sheep, he had to do it on foot.

With thousands of sheep, he’d be chasing them around for days at a time.

He played local club soccer and he was told at age 40 he was too old to keep playing, so he took up jogging.

He had a simple lifestyle, a simple diet, and a simple strategy to win the race: keep moving forward.

“I’m just an old tortoise,” he said, and while he couldn’t necessarily run faster than the others, he could run longer, and take shorter breaks than the other runners did.

Young not only caught up with them, he ran way, way past them.

He finished the more than 500 mile long race in 5 days, 15 hours, 4 minutes, 10 hours ahead of the second place finisher.

Young became a sensation in Australia, and not just for his victory and his unusual backstory.

He had won a $10,000 prize, but he decided to share most of it with the other runners, because they had worked hard too.

And he kept running for most of the rest of his life.

As he put it, “No matter what you do, you have to keep moving. If you don’t wear out, you rust out, and you rust out quicker than you wear out.”

Tomorrow in Wilmington, Delaware, it’s day one of the Wilmington Coffee Fest.

People who love coffee, people who roast coffee and people who run coffee shops are getting together for a three day weekend full of conversation, music, and definitely lots of coffee.

When age and modesty won the race (Sydney Morning Herald)

The 61-Year-Old Shepherd Who Shuffled His Way to an Unlikely Ultra Win (Adventure Journal via

Wilmington Coffee Fest

Our Patreon backers get us to the finish line every time, join them with your support today!

Photo by Mattinbgn via Wikicommons