Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard

Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard

Author:Dion Leonard [Leonard, Dion]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers
Published: 2017-05-12T23:00:00+00:00


PART 4

13

There’s barely an Australian alive who hasn’t heard of the ultra-runner Cliff Young. The man’s an inspiration to all of us, not just endurance athletes. To anyone who has ever faced an insurmountable challenge that nobody believes can be overcome, Cliff’s story offers hope.

On Wednesday, 27 April, 1983, Cliff Young turned up at the Westfield shopping mall in the western suburbs of Sydney, looking for the start line to a remarkable race. The route led to another Westfield shopping mall, 543.7 miles away in Melbourne.

The race was widely considered to be the toughest of its kind, and the assembled field included some of the best in the world, men in their prime who had trained for months to reach peak physical condition for the event.

Cliff stood out from the handful of runners who had gathered for the brutal race. He was sixty-one years old, wore overalls and work boots, and had removed his dentures because he didn’t like the way they rattled when he ran.

While most people assumed he was either a spectator or a maintenance guy who’d gotten slightly lost, Cliff collected his race number and joined the other runners.

“Mate,” said one of the journalists when he saw Cliff on the line, “d’you think you can finish the race?”

“Yes, I can,” said Cliff. “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 two thousand sheep on two thousand 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. I believe I can run this race.”

The race started, and Cliff was left behind. He didn’t even run right; he had this weird-looking shuffle where he barely lifted his feet from the ground. By the end of the first day, when all the runners decided to stop and get some sleep, Cliff was miles and miles behind them.

The pros knew how to pace themselves for the run, and they all worked the same plan of running for eighteen hours a day and sleeping for six. That way the fastest among them hoped to reach the end in about seven days.

Cliff was working with a different plan. When they resumed the race the next morning, the other runners were shocked to hear that Cliff was still in the race. He’d not slept and had shuffled his way right through the night.

He did the same thing the second night as well as the third. With each morning came more news of how Cliff had jogged through the night, breaking down the lead that the runners half his age tried to stretch out in the day.

Eventually Cliff overtook them, and after five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes, he crossed the finish line. He had broken the record by almost two full days, beating the five other runners who finished the race.



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