Australia’s Westfield ultramarathon had a surprise entrant in 1983: a 61-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young arrived wearing overalls and gumboots and took a place among a field of 150 elite 20-somethings for the 543-mile run from Sydney to Melbourne.
Young ran with a peculiar shuffling gait that soon left him far behind the leaders, but as the race wore on he regained the ground rapidly. His strategy was simple: He didn’t sleep. He had routinely rounded up sheep on his family’s 2,000-acre ranch in Victoria, where he often ran two or three days without rest, and this preternatural endurance carried him easily into first place in the Westfield race, beating the record time by nearly two days.
At the finish Young said he’d been unaware there was a $10,000 prize; he gave it away to five other runners and returned quietly to his ranch. Asked what advice he’d give to other elderly runners, he said, “No matter what you do, you have to keep moving. If you don’t wear out, you rust out.”