With Love on Father's Day, to the Dads, Husbands and Sons in our Lives

Jun 19, 2020 at 03:59 pm by Paulette Jackson


It’s 1983 in Sydney, Australia. A spokesman stands on stage addressing a crowd of running athletes with an announcement;


“It is my pleasure to announce an amazing event on Australia’s sporting calendar; the Ultra Marathon! The most grueling marathon, to be run between Australia’s two greatest cities; Sydney and Melbourne!”


In the back of the room, a reporter is heard to ask, “That’s over 800k. Do you expect anyone to finish?”


Spokesman: “The world’s greatest runners are competing; Joe Record, Sydney Bower, who is the world’s 1000 miles record holder and Tom Raferty, fresh back from his record breaking run across California’s Death Valley.”


In contrast, six hundred miles away, in a town named Beech Forest, a 61 year old man, and gentle soul, named Clifford Young, “Cliffy” for short, is herding Cattle on his family farm. He does so by trotting along behind the cows, so to direct them where they need to go. Cliffy has enjoyed running for quite a while, and it comes in handy for herding the cows.


Cliffy also works the family potato farm, which his father started. But the potato crop has failed horribly in recent years, taking a toll on income. Apparently, what Cliffy believes, is that the “business man” that was paid to put fertilizer on the farm, used a poison instead – perhaps for his own interest to buy the farm. Cliffy’s brother has pressed him to sell the farm. But the farm means a lot to Cliffy, and he wants to hold on to his family’s land and cattle.


While out running one day, Cliffy stops at a local sports store, to look at running shoes. While browsing, he notices a poster for the Ultra Marathon. Inspired by the poster, Cliffy also sees an income opportunity by running in the marathon.


Turning to life long friend, who has been “sort of” an athletic trainer, Cliffy begs for his friend’s help to train for the Ultra Marathon.


Finally agreeing, the two embark on the arduous journey of training for the Sydney to Melbourne Marathon.


When Cliffy told his family about participating in marathon, “What are you thinking, you’re 61 years old?” was just the first of many responses he received, questioning his decision to enter the race. But Cliffy was determined to run the 800k race, and although reluctant, the family went along with his decision.


Cliffy and his trainer got started right away, preparing for the marathon. Cliffy wore his work clothes, and his “gum” boots, which is what he wears in the fields. To train for the marathon, one of the strength training exercises was to run up a hillside of his farm, (I don’t know how long or how many times) while carrying 50 lb bags of potatoes across his shoulders, with his trainer behind him. In addition he also needed to run 125 km a day, which is 77 miles, to be ready for the marathon.

Besides training for the marathon, both trainer and runner, try to gain support from the people of the town. Some towns’ people who knew Cliffy, thought the idea was comical. Others thought it was impossible for him to win, and others just wanted to watch and see.


Finally, the time came for Cliffy and his trainer to go to Sydney for the marathon. Arriving at Sydney, it was clear that Cliffy was the oldest participant. His age raised many questions with the judges regarding his ability to survive the five-day race. But finally, his application was accepted.

On the day of the race, Cliffy heads out and begins the race with the other runners. And his style of running, was not to keep pace with his companions, but to run to the sound of his own music and that of a different drummer.

In spite of a spokesman, warning Cliffy, of health concerns and consequences if he races, Cliffy continues, promising if that by the following day, he feels he cannot continue, he will drop out of the race.


After two days of the race, two runners dropped out due to health reasons. Cliffy was operating on little sleep and his feet were raw and bleeding. It was only with the use of super glue, his trainer applied to his feet, that he was able to continue.

And somewhere along the line, by the fourth day, Cliffy was informed that he was in 3rd place, but had just snuck into 1st place ….. just by keeping going and putting one foot in front of the other.

And then before long, Cliffy begins to notice fans lined up along the side of the road, cheering him on!

Out of the blue, an advertiser joins Cliffy, running alongside of him to ask permission to put his face on a billboard, advertising a fruit smoothie, Cliffy had been seen carrying. Additionally, more fans had shown up, cheering for Cliffy! And more advertisers were handing him business cards wanting him to promote their products!

As he got closer to Melbourne, Cliffy is met by a whole town of 30,000 people, who have all turned out to welcome him. He was in the lead!

Passing a close second place winner who had to drop out, and was sitting by the road, the runner spoke to Cliffy; “There goes Ciff Young, legend in the making. I just wanted to be able to say, I overtook Cliff Young, Legend.”

Due to exhaustion, Cliffy takes a brief rest and consults with his doctor, who warns him or renal failure, but Cliffy wanted to continue.

With an unstoppable drive, Cliff Young, a potato farmer, keeps going. He makes his way in to Melbourne Australia, at 2:00 a.m. on the morning of the final day, where he is greeted by moms, dads and children waiting to meet this man, who, as he crossed the finish line … smashed all records!

Cliff Young, is an inspiration to every man, woman and child. His determination reminds us of the inherent strength and drive of the human spirit – a force that defies all odds.

Cliff’s reward, as winner of the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-Marathon, was $10,000. Most of it, he shared with other runners.

Soon after the race, Cliff married a young woman, Mary, who was initially a running partner. They were married five years before separating. However, they remained the best of friends until Cliff’s death in 2003.

Cliff Young’s unique way of running, transformed ultra-marathon running style, changing it to the “Young Shuffle” allowing runners to expend less energy.

Albert Ernest Clifford Young, OAM an Australian  potato farmer and athlete from Beech Forest, Victoria, is best known for his unexpected win of the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-marathon in 1983 at 61 years of age.

The poem below, The Desert Road, I believe, reflects the path Cliff Young’s life unfolding, honoring with great love, his commitment to all of life. His steady course, allowed him to see revealed, a hope he did not pursue, but also one he could never have imagined.

The Desert Road
by Saadat

“Tenant was I of a lone domain
The far pale caravans wound
To the rim of the sky, and vanished again;
My call in the waste was drowned.

“The vultures came, and hovered and fled
And once there stole to my door
A white gazelle but, its eyes were dread
With the hurt of the wounds it bore.

“It passed in the dusk with a foot of fear
And the white, cold mists rolled in;
And my heart was the heart of a stricken deer;
Or a soul in a snare of sin.

“My days they withered like rootless things,
and the sands rolled on, rolled wide;
Like a pelican I, with broken wings,
and the sands rolled on, rolled wide;
Or a soul in a snare of sin.

“My days they withered like rootless things,
and the sands rolled on, rolled wide;
Like a pelican I, with broken wings,
Like a drifting barque on the tide.

“But at last in the light of a rose-red day,
In the windless glow of the morn
From over the hills and far away
You came – Ah, the joy of the morn!

“And wherever your footsteps fell, there crept
A path – it was far and wide
A desert road which no sands have swept
Where never a hope has died.

“I followed you forth, and your beauty held
My heart like an ancient song;
By that desert road to the blossoming plains
I came – and the way was long!

“So, I set my course, by the light of your eyes;
I care not what fate may send;
On the road I tread shine the love-starred skies –
The road with never an end.”

In honor of all the fathers and husbands, whose honorable, steadfast commitment and determination, is to love and care for their families and all of life. May your steady course reveal a beautiful hope you could not have ever imagined.

Happy Father's Day to all of you.

Paulette Jackson

The information in this article is from the 2014, spiritual Cinema Circle production of the 92 minute film titled, “Cliffy”, written by R.B. Taylor and directed by Dean Murphy. 







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