“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
In 1983 Cliff Young was a 61 year old, scrawny Australian potato farmer when he decided to enter the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-marathon, a 534.7 mile (875 kilometers) – then considered one of the world’s most difficult endurance races.
He showed up at the race in his overalls and knee high Wellington rubber boots (he later changed to sneakers). When he was told there was no way he could win the race he said, “Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d always catch them.”
Cliff joined the younger, elite athletes at the start line. His pace was slow and his style loopy and after the first day, he was dead last. The other runners assumed they had to sleep for at least four to six hours. Cliff chose to sleep only two hours. (Some reports say he didn’t sleep at all, others say he slept a total of 12 hours). By the second day Cliff was far ahead of everyone else. He shuffled down the highway for five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes straight – the equivalent of running almost four marathons a day. He survived on hot chocolate and water.
He crossed the finish line ten hours before anyone else. When he was handed the $10k prize money he said he didn’t run to win anything. He split the money with the five other runners who finished the race, keeping none for himself. Today, the “Young-shuffle” has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it’s considered more energy-efficient.
A real life tortoise and the hare story shared as a reminder that no matter what our age, experience, appearance, and no matter what others assume about us, slow and steady – and using everything to our advantage, is what ultimately wins the race.