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Friday 19 January 2018

1983 Westfield Run - by Phil Essam

1983 Westfield Run Poster

Chapter Two

1983 - Cliff Young Shuffles Into History

  The first Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon commenced on 27th April 1983 at Parramatta Westfield Shopping Centre. The starter’s gun was fired at 1030 am by the NSW Premier, Mr Neville Wran. The race received strong publicity before the start. There were thousands of people lining the course over the first few miles to see the eleven runners in the field.

 1. Tony Rafferty – Rafferty was the best-known ultra marathoner in the field. He ran from Sydney to Melbourne in 1972. During the seventies he also ran across the Nullarbor and the Birdsville Track and across Australia from Fremantle to Surfers Paradise. Just a short 6000 km! In 1978, Rafferty ran from Sydney to Melbourne and return. He did the first leg in 8 days 17 hours and 15 minutes.
Rafferty was running a marathon a day with 20km in the morning and 20km in the afternoon. Rafferty held a chicken and champagne lunch to celebrate the announcement of his inclusion in the race. George Perdon said "Not a bad bloke, Tony, but it is probably best he does his celebrating before the race".

 2. George Perdon - 58 yr old Victorian runner who held sixteen Australian ultra records from 30 miles up to 24 hours on track and road. There had been a rivalry between himself and Rafferty over the years. This was exposed later as media hype to help boost paper sales. George trained for the race with three sessions a day. He got up at 0445 hrs each day to train before starting his job at the local Sports Store. This would be followed by a lunch and evening training session. Perdon was completing at least 200 km a week which was quite an incredible achievement in those days. If the weather was really bad, he would train in the garage.

Perdon said "There is no difference between running around your garage for a couple of hours and being out in the road where you might get wet. One of the problems confronting runners in these long runners is monotony and boredom. If you can run around your garage you can run anywhere".
 3. Siggy Bauer- Siggy from New Zealand was one of the Ultra running pioneers outside Australia. He held the World 1000mile record and was hot favourite to win .

 4. Cliff Young- Cliff is a 63-year-old Potato farmer from Colac. He started the sport late in life. He lived on a farm during the depression years and in a different way had been training all his life for this grueling event.

Cliff won a 100-mile track race in Sydney in 1982 and ran 500km at Colac in a time of 3 days 16 hours and 40 minutes. Cliff’s attempt for the race was organised by Mike Tonkin and Terry McCarthy. Tonkin obtained vehicles from the local Mazda dealer and McCarthy did the pub rounds in Colac collecting cash.

Cliff and Joe Record trained together three months prior to the race. They decided to split the $ 10 000 first prize money if one of them was fortunate enough to cross the line first

Cliff’s diet for the race was to include a high carbohydrate, high vegetable intake of potatoes, oatmeal, honey, beans, spaghetti, pears, ice-cream and pumpkin.

 5. Joe Record- Joe was an expatriate Englishman , resident in West Australia. He won the Manly 100-mile race in 1981 and had covered 462 miles in a six-day race in France in 1982. Joe Record was asked a few years later by Tony Rafferty "What are your lasting thoughts of that famous race?" Joe’s reply was "I drove across the Nullarbor in this really shonky car. I took my time. Cliff was a very easy bloke to live with. Just no hassle. I worked out a schedule for us. We did twenty miles the first week, thirty miles the next and then fifty miles a day." Joe had an eccentric outlook on life and was certainly a runner that left his influence on the race over the years.

6. Bob Bruner- Well-known fitness crusader. He is an ex – Canadian now living in Melbourne. Bruner had raced in thirty five Ultras and was also a lecturer, writer, author and consultant. He claimed to have represented Canada at soccer and boxing when he was a schoolboy. Bruner was sponsored by the banana industry in this attempt. It was unfortunate that Bruner was to leave his own mark on the history of the race!

 7. John Hughes- Is the second Kiwi runner in the race. He is a policeman by profession. His media release said "Hard line detective with the criminal investigation branch who is constantly in the news". Hughes is the current holder of the Sydney to Melbourne record with seven days, nine hours and forty seven minutes. Hughes was one of the favourites to get a place in the event.

8. John Connellan- John is twenty eight years old and was an ex – Victorian Schoolboys Cross Country Champion. He ran three sub two hour and forty minute Marathons in his twenties and had a unique preparation for the race.

He had all of 1982 away from running. The commitment to compete was made at Falls Creek in January 83. Several weeks after that he was doing 150km a week. This schedule was maintained for the next three months. Connellan had two trials prior to the event. These included a 80km a day for three days in February and a 110km run in March.

  Ex-Olympic runner, Chris Wardlaw was Connellan’s Manager. His masseur was Jock Plunkett. Plunkett was the same masseur who massaged Bob Hayes (American 100m Gold winner) in the 64 Olympics. His crew had an average Marathon time of two hours and fifteen minutes. Connellan was the youngest and most inexperienced runner in the field. His motivational music for the race included an hour of the ABC Victory tune from the Brisbane Commonwealth Games. The same music was repeated for a whole hour! This should be enough to send people to sleep, not to motivate them!
Connellan also received fluid and dietary advice from Dr Dick Telford from the Australian Institute of Sport. Dr Peter Fuller provided the medical expertise for his race attempt. He suggested(as a joke) a few weeks prior to the start of the race that Connellan would be fed intravenously. Channel Ten got hold of the story and it was headlines on the evening News. Connellan was soon contacted by his Mum who was in a very worried state!

 9. Martin Thompson- Victorian thirty seven year old Public servant. He had ran one hundred and ten Marathons in his life but wasn’t expected to trouble the rest of the field as this was much further than the traditional 42.195km.

 10. Keith Swift- Swift is a 43 year old runner who won the Victorian 50 mile title in 1980. He wasn’t expected to have a bearing on the outcome of the race as 50 miles wasn’t the same as the road between Sydney and Melbourne.

 11. Wal McCrorie - Fifty two year old ex Scottish Paratrooper, now involved in the Insurance business and living in New South Wales. He had a complete health breakdown before running in his first City to Surf and has been addicted to running ever since. Wal is the holder of the Sydney to Melbourne (Princess Highway) record and isn’t likely to be troubled by this shorter route. He could end up giving the more fancied runners in the race a fright.

  Controversy erupted before the start of the race. Australian Athletic Union Executive Director, Rick Pannell warned the athletes who contested the Sydney to Melbourne Marathon that they would automatically lose their amateur status. "Win, Lose or draw, any registered amateur who races in the event will automatically forfeit their amateur status" Pannell said. None of the starters changed their mind and they all lined up for the epic journey. Australian Marathon legend, Rob De Castella (Deeks) was threatened with the same fate if he ran a couple of miles with the runners at the start of the race.

  Deeks said before the race started "I think the prospect of getting to the stage of complete weariness and then knowing there are days and days to go is the ultimate test of endurance".

  A press Conference was held before the start and lasted for ever. As Joe Record said to Tony Rafferty in the March 94 issue of UltraMag "A big drag at the start listening to the dignitaries speak. You remember. It was quite frustrating. I got guts ache"

  The starter gun was fired and the runners were on their way. Wal McCrorie. and John Hughes were in the lead. They ran a sub three hour marathon for the first twenty kilometres. Half a dozen runners were at the front with only two hundred metres between them. They were McCrorie, Hughes, Thompson, Swift and Young. Wal McCrorie stated a few years later that his pace at the start of the race cost him any chance of finishing in the first year.

  The second pack included Tony Rafferty, George Perdon and Siggy Bauer. They were bringing up the rear at a sensible rate. They were sitting back and waiting and showing why they were the champions of the sport. It was half an hour into the race when George Perdon and Siggy Bauer went after the lead pack.

  John Hughes was in the lead at the twenty three km mark. It was at this stage that Hughes took a wrong turn and five runners followed. They were a kilometre off course when officials turned up and pointed them the right way. After that John Hughes picked up his pace again and went through the Marathon in a time of two hours and fifty minutes. George Perdon did Cliff Young a favour at this stage and yelled out "Come over here Cliffy. You’re on the wrong road".

  At the 60km mark near Picton, John Hughes and Martin Thompson were in the lead. They were averaging seven minute miles. This was a pace that would never be achieved again during the race.
  Day soon turned into evening and the lead was still being fought between John Hughes and Martin Thompson. The difference between first and second was as close as thirty seconds as the race approached Mittagong.

  John Connellan stopped at Mittagong about 7pm on the first day. He had run 93km in eight hours and twenty minutes. Connellan and crew dined at the Motel restaurant that night. They managed five or six hours sleep before rising at 5am the next day. This piece of amateurism was to disappear from the race over the next couple of years.

  Hughes and Thompson had a six kilometre lead from a group of runners that included Cliff Young. The leading runners were averaging seven minute miles. George Perdon was in sixth place and was the only competitor to have had a proper feed. Tony Rafferty was twelve kilometres behind the leader and had not eaten or rested.

  It was at two o clock in the morning when Cliff Young fell and hurt his shoulder. The cold was his only problem and he wasn’t in pain. It was shortly after that when Cliff came off and had a rest. Due to a crew member not wearing his contacts, Cliff was awake two hours later and running. This was a blessing in disguise and Cliff realized that he could go without sleep.

  The second day of the race started and Cliff Young was the leader, as the field ran into Yass. Cliff said "I’m just an old tortoise, I have to keep going to stay in front". Joe Record’s reply on hearing this was "I think I can catch the old Cliff. He says he is a tortoise but I think the old bastard is a hare in disguise"

  At the start of the second day the news of the accident to one of Keith Swift’s crew filtered through to the rest of the race. He was hit by a car and went to Hospital with a broken collar bone. Westfield claimed it’s first injury!

  Siggy Bauer was second and Joe Record was third. Joe was later to describe the run as "It was a beautiful enchanting run. Cattle strewn across the road. I ran with them. I felt like I was going back in time". George Perdon and John Hughes were forth and fifth respectively.

  Martin Thompson was the first withdrawal on Day Two. John Connellan’s comment on being told that Martin had just gone by in a car was "Flag the car down I want to go with him". At this stage of the race Connellan’s feet were covered in blisters. Vaseline was being applied every couple of hours to his feet.

  Cliff got more confident as the second day progressed. At the three hundred kilometre mark he had a twenty nine kilometre lead over Joe Record with Siggy Bauer and George Perdon in third and forth.
  John Connellan totaled 116km during the second day of the race. This was in a thirteen hour period. Connellan took his overnight stop in Gunning.

  By the start of the third day, Cliff Young had a thirty five kilometres lead. He was at Gundagai, which is only thirty six kilometres short of the half way mark. Cliff said "I’ll show these jokers a thing or two before I reach Melbourne" Joe Record was in second spot, four hours behind Cliff and Siggy Bauer was holding onto third place. Bringing up the rear was Keith Swift, who was one hundred kilometres from the lead.

  Connellan completed 111km during the third day of the race. His walks were getting longer and he ran an extra hour into the night.

  It was at the half way mark, when the Race Director, John Toleman tried to get Cliff Young to take a pain killing injection for his shoulder. Cliff had a painful experience with needles in Colac years ago and politely told Toleman and the Doctor "Thanks , but no thanks".

  It was Day four when Connellan really started to suffer. He only managed to complete 53km and had a two hour massage stop outside Gundagai. This did not rejuvenate him though.

  Honest mistakes made by crew members in calculating mileage’s could cause friction between the crew and the runner. The crew for John Connellan were supplying him with drinks every two kilometres. Vaseline and assorted medication would also be given at these stops. From Day two onwards these stops became more frequent. These stops would provide psychological and physical sustenance for Connellan.

  Connellan’s crew soon worked out that the hardest thing for the support crew "Was knowing what to say, what not to say and when to keep your mouth totally shut". Chris Wardlaw was quoted as saying "If were feeling like this – How must Blue be feeling?"

  In a race of this nature, the smallest incidents would become major catastrophes. Connellan’s back up vehicle had a flat battery which caused an hour’s wait for sustenance. A mile long bridge at Gundagai meant that runners would have to get over the bridge before being attended to.

  It was six hours into Day four, when Connellan withdrew. He had been in a black hole the day before and got out of it. He ran 373km , his feet were swollen and the chafing near his groin was sheer agony. "How could anyone regard what he had done as a failure?"

  John Connellan’s comment on finishing the race was "I’m pulling out". One of Connellan’s crew remembers this stage as "We were all close to that emotional edge – stressed and tired. I felt like crying. It’s an awkward situation with a camera and sound recording right on top of you". Connellan pulled out of the race, 15km south of Gundagai at the Tumblong Tavern. This was good for John as he hadn’t had a drink for two months.

  Connellan was later to describe the race with an analogy. It was eleven people hitting their heads against a brick wall with the one that lasted the longest was the winner.

  Mike Willesee made a documentary about the race. It starred four of the runners. They were Cliff Young, Joe Record, Bob Bruner and John Connellan.

  It was at Albury when Joe Record caught up with Cliff. It was on Sunday morning and Cliff had been asleep for an hour and a half. Cliff was woken by a very familiar face saying "Hello Old Buddy. I’ve caught you. Sleep tight." Joe then left the caravan and kept running. Cliff was that startled that he got dressed and kept running at a terrific pace to overtake Joe. Cliff’s last words to Joe were "Good luck Joe". It was a short time later that Joe Record needed his sleep and Cliff was left to get a good distance again between him and the rest of the field.

  Joe Record remembers this part of the race when he said at a later stage "I got Cliffy in Albury. Then shin splints scotched it. I ran too hard down the hills. Later he got 18k in front. He was going like the clappers."

  A funnier version of this part of the race was reported later and it goes like this: Cliff recalled "There were a few funny moments. Joe Record, who was running second, jumped into my caravan late one night while I was catching 40 winks. Joe asked me if I had any ice for his sore shins. I said ‘No’ sent him back up the road to a garage, jumped out of bed, took off and never saw him again".

  Perdon, Bauer and Hughes were now third, forth and fifth. The story of Cliff Young had sparked the imagination of the public. Hundreds of spectators were now lining the Highway to applaud Young and urge him towards victory. The crowd grew as Cliff shuffled towards Melbourne. The news people were now following twenty four hours a day. His crew tried to protect him, but Cliff realised that he was now a celebrity and he had obligations to fill!

  Joe Record pulled out of the event with swollen ankles and a suspected kidney infection. He remembers the run as "I had an awful time from Wodonga to Wangaratta. A totally hellish run. Then I’d a big duel with George Perdon. I think it lasted 40k. I couldn’t let him go. It gave me the shits. I’d come up and f****** sprint. He’d come up and I’d go again. Then I couldn’t even walk down the hills and I said ‘stuff it". It was a shame to see Record pull out of the event. He had trained with Cliff Young and had definitely made the other runners ‘Sing for their Supper".

  Cliff’s Mum, Mary travelled from Beech Forest to meet her son at the finish. It was going to be a complete surprise for Cliff, even though Mary wasn’t sure if she should go to Melbourne or stay at home and prepare a bed for him. Mary is very proud of her son, who took up running at 57, but said "I hope he forgets all about it when he gets home. It came up like that. Let'’ hope it goes away as quickly"" Cliff and his mother had not discussed prizemoney and she said "What he does with it is his prerogative".

  When Cliff reached the outskirts of Melbourne, "Cliff’y mania had reached fever pitch. It was raining and yet he was being cheered on by thousands of people lining the streets. "Children, people in pyjamas, people with their family pets, joggers, others on bicycles, cheered Cliff on towards the finish of his 875kms run from Sydney. He waved and smiled as he kept steadily plodding shuffling on. He had reached Melbourne – that’s all anybody cared about."

  City Busker, Bert "The Tubemaker" Nicolls, got the hopes of the crowd up, when he made a couple of fifty metre runs down Elizabeth St. It fooled a lot of people for a few seconds, but a cheer broke out each time.

  Bert had a slightly stooped frame, wore thick rimmed glasses, a felt cap, baggy trousers and a mauve jacket with Anzac Day badges on his lapel. It was a passable imitation, but Bert didn’t quite have the stamina of an Ultra Marathoner. Bert said "I’d think I ‘d collapse before I got to Richmond. I’ve got a double hernia, I’m deaf in one ear and I’m three quarters blind in my right eye".

  Bert’s furthest physical adventure in life was years ago when he walked from Melbourne to Woodend. He thought he was on the Hume Highway to Sydney, so he turned around back to the City.

  Cliff reached the General Post office just before midnight. Police estimated that there were 5000 people lining the streets. All the police could do was stop the traffic and watch the amazing scenes in front of them. Cliff’s comment on all the people lining the road and waving was "I’d hate to be royalty". His nearest rival, George Perdon was forty kilometres behind him. There was no way that Cliff was going to lose, as the crowds continued to grow and Cliff was urged to victory.

  Cliff kept going towards Doncaster. He was joined by thirty young joggers for the last final stretch. One of the runners was very enthusiastic and tried a bit too hard to fire Cliff for the homeward stretch. Cliff was fired up ready to do something else to the young
fella! His comments were a bit much after Cliff had traveled all that way.

  It was a long time since Australia had a real hero to cheer. This 61 year old potato farmer from Colac, Victoria had endeared himself to the hearts, minds and souls of the average Australian. They desperately needed good news instead of the endless violence that was usually fed to them by the Australian media.

  One spectator said "Are they going to knight him or give him a medal?"

  It was shortly after 130am in the morning when Cliff crossed the finishing Line. It was five days, fifteen hours and four minutes since he had left Sydney. He was greeted by his mother who said "Well done son!" He had run for over one hundred and thirty five hours and had averaged just over six kilometres per hour. Cliff Young had existed on only 12 hours sleep during the past six days and had used ten pairs of shoes during the race.

  Tony Rafferty remembers the end of the 83 Westfield "I was out on the Highway in sixth place listening to his arrival on my headset radio as I trundled onto the finish. The night sky was lit up with searchlights and media light bulbs attracting people out of their homes. And Cliff shuffled in to be mobbed by well wishers".

  After the presentation ceremony, Cliff was carried off the stage. His legs realised that they didn’t have to move another inch and they buckled underneath him. He slept that night in a bed that was set up at the shopping centre.

  Five more runners were to finish over the next day and a half. They were George Perdon, Siggy Bauer, John Hughes, Tony Rafferty and Bob Bruner. They had all beaten the previous race record held by John Hughes, but the whole of Australia only wanted to meet one man and that was, Cliff Young. "After five hours deep sleep, Cliff was up to face the press and TV Cameras, spending the rest of the day giving interviews."

  The morning after Cliff finished his great run, he tucked into three plates of eggs on toast and said to the media "It won’t alter me. It won’t make any difference to me. I’m sure".

  Cliff spent the next couple of days giving media interviews and meeting the public. All of Australia was impressed by his humility and gentle good humour. He even received a congratulatory telegram from the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke that said "All Australians join me in congratulating you on a truly remarkable achievement".

  Cliff was signed with Westfield to do 40 appearances in the next twelve months at various shopping centres through out Australia. This association became an ongoing one for the next ten years.
  Young’s manager, Mike Tonkin was interviewed after the race and said "It was determination to last the distance that won the Sydney to Melbourne race". He was asked about Cliff’s sleep patterns and had this to say "It was all his own idea not to sleep. We thought he was mad". "But he’s really strongminded so I said let him go – he will either win or collapse".

  Mike Tonkin was also interviewed by "The Age" about Cliff’s money making potential and had several interesting quotes to say:
"He has got to get his body right and get himself back together. He has been high from the excitement – now he is starting to feel the pain".
"Cliffy is someone who could be used to make $ 100 000 this year no doubt about that."
"The decision has got to be made whether to go for the money and I will do exactly what Cliffy wants. If he wants to make money it is possible to arrange it".
"I can’t say how much is involved. But we haven’t turned our backs on anything".
"I know people could manage him and make more money than me, but there is no one in the world who could help him to do what he wants more than me. You know, Cliffy lives son $2 000 a year – he doesn’t really need $ 100 000".

  John Toleman was also asked about managing Cliff Young and said "A lot of people spoke to me about handling him. Nobody could anticipate what has happened. Cliff is seeing more money now than he has ever seen in his life. Mike Tonkin has had so many calls he is running out of paper."

  The Mayor of Colac, Cr Pat Gimble , said about Cliff’s victory " You can bet it will be the biggest welcome home since our Diggers came home from the war. We don’t know what we will be doing yet, but whatever it is everyone will be involved."

  Colac Garage owner, Mike Ryan, whose staff were closely involved in Cliff’s race said "No one outside Colac would have known the elation the community felt today. When I came back from the war, we were given a civic reception. But the feeling then was nothing to how we feel here today. That honest little bloke has through his own efforts done so much to unite the country. Watching him at the finish today was more thrilling to me than any Grand Final".

  The Editor of the Colac Herald, Mr Gary Trotter, was busy preparing a four page wrap around supplement on Cliff and his achievement. Trotter said "It will be something our readers can put away and keep for their grandchildren. Down here everyone loves the little guy whose heart is as big as the trees in the rain forest where he trains."

  The unofficial Mayor of Beechforest, Jim Pearce was ecstatic with the victory of Cliff Young. He was contacted at the only Pub in Beechforest, where 150 locals had packed the place to celebrate and said "He put us on the map, little Cliffy did". Mr. Pearce likened Cliffy’s victory to the clean mountain air and made comparisons with the prolific breeding of Melbourne Cup winners in New Zealand. Jim talked about Cliffy’s football days and described him as "Pretty slow on the ground and sour as a horse. But speaking of horses, our lad’s got a heart like Phar Lap. If I could get a foal out of him, I’d keep it".

  Cliff was disappointed that good friend and training partner, Joe Record had to pull out , but honoured his promise to Joe of splitting the $ 10 000 prizemoney. How many other sportsmen and sportswomen in today’s cash orientated society would be selfless? Cliff even planned to split his own $ 5 000 amongst his crew and the other runners.

  After the race there was talk of Cliff having the earning potential of $100 000 a year. Cliff was quite happy after a couple of days to retire back to his home in Colac and keep living the simple life. Ultra- Distance running was now on the front page, Cliff was a hero to thousands of people around Australia and the "Westfield" had become an annual event.

  Second placegetter, George Perdon was quoted as saying tongue in cheek "He planned to retire and leave Ultra running for the older blokes".

  George Perdon was asked a few years later by Tony Rafferty about his recollections
were on the 83 Westfield. His reply was "I thought Siggy Bauer was the man to beat. He had all the records. It didn’t dawn on me that Cliffy would do what he did. I took seven hour breaks the first and second night. He just slipped away."

  George Perdon was to catch Siggy Bauer 215km from the finish and ran straight to the finish at Doncaster. Siggy Bauer was later quoted as saying "I’ve never had anyone go past me so fast".

  Cliff Young came out with a ton of quotes during the race:
 Prizemoney: "I worked out I’d be left with about five dollars"
Publicity: "I think it will wear off in about a week. They’ll find someone else to write about and I’ll go back and relax in the bush among the birds".
New status: "I’d hate to be royalty. I don’t think I am cut out to make such a public figure. I’m just a farmer really"
Motivation: "It was a personal thing. I wanted to have a go at, so I ran the distance and beat the other runners".
Strategy: To take the lead as soon as possible – which I managed to do on the first night. Then when ever I got word that this or that runner was coming from behind I would speed up".

The best quote of the whole race, must go to Cliff Young’s mother: "I’m not too pleased about all this running. I don’t think the body is made for it. I never thought he would take up running, but when he did at 57 it was the biggest surprise of my life"

  Mrs Barbara Pack ran the publicity for the 83 race, from a little office in Heidelberg, Melbourne. She was more or less working the same hours as the Ultra Marathoners and her day would start with radio interviews from the radio Stations at 0530 hrs in the morning. Mrs Pack was 29 and had been involved in sports promotion, when she looked after the Great Otway Classic the previous year.

  Mrs Pack was surprised in the interest that the race was generating all over the world. There had been calls from the USA and Europe, with several people wanting to compete next year. Mrs Pack was living in isolation for a week, which was interrupted by the constant ringing of the telephone. She said "I never believed when the race started it was going to be like this. The publicity it’s had is unbelievable and it’s all due to the fact that a 61 year old spud farmer is in the lead. Hollywood couldn’t have invented a better story line"

  A couple of days after the race, Cliff Young was rewarded with a lunchtime reception with 8000 people at the City Square in Melbourne. The Melbourne Lord Mayor, Cr Bill Gardner, gave Cliff the key to the City. The Victorian Premier, Mr John Cain presented Cliff with a Special Plaque, a Victorian atlas and a VicRail Pass for twelve months free travel.

  Cliff told the eager crowd "It is really a wonderful thing to see you all here. It was a great experience to run along the road the other night and see the great crowd."

  After the reception, Cliff and his mother, Mary were given a tour of the Victorian Parliament by the Premier, Mr Cain. Cliff was at his cheekiest best, sat back in the Premier’s chair ( in his office) and said "Anybody want any problems solved?"

  Cliff Young’s performance was summed up by the Editor of the Age when his Editorial said "Sportsmen of Cliff Young’s ilk are rare. For many of them, money is the chief attraction, the game itself is secondary. Cliff Young didn’t run for the money. Hardly, when he had decided, if he won to split the prizemoney with fellow competitors. No he ran to prove something to himself. In the process he proved something to the nation. He says of himself that the is not cut out to be a public figure. But his amazing run has made him a folk hero nonetheless".

  Sigfried Bauer from New Zealand finished third. All the crowds had disappeared when he ran through Melbourne as a very lonely figure. He said "All top athletes lose as many races than they win. That’s the way it goes. If I was to worry about welcoming committees, I’d have given up by now".

  Bauer was sure that he could win the race and said "Right up to the time I heard officially that Cliff Young had finished, I thought I could win. His was an amazing feat. All along I was working to a schedule thinking that he would have to finally fall back to the field. I had to change my tactics at the end but it was too late".

  The 1983 Race established a new chapter in Australian sport. Cliff Young became an instant Australian icon with his success and the relatively unknown sport of Ultra Marathon Running became more widely known around the world. Eight more races were to be run over the next eight years and eight more stories were woven into the pages of Australian sport.


Cliff Young was a farmer A young man at 61, He toed the line with the best of them, For the Sydney to Melbourne run, The critics said he had no chance, ‘Cause the pros know all the tricks, But they didn’t bank on the big heart, Of the shuffler from the sticks.

(Chorus) I am just a farmer, He told the cheering throng, As he ran the line in Melbourne, Proving we can all be strong, But it won’t turn his head, I am just a farmer, That was all he said.

 This song was written by Allan Webster and John Hunter shortly after Cliff crossed the Finish line. It enjoyed great popularity and was Number One around the country for a couple of weeks.

1983 Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Results

1 Cliff Young Victoria 5d:15h:04m 135 6.04
2 George Perdon Victoria 6d:01h:00m 145 5.96
3 Siggy Bauer NZ 6d:05h:00m 149 5.08
4 John Hughes NZ 6d:05h:49m 150 5.76
5 Tony Rafferty Victoria 7d:04h:27m 172 5.02
6 Bob Bruner Victoria 7d:07h:03m 175 4.93

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