From the Archives, 1983: Cliff Young, Australia’s newest folk hero

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

First published in The Age on May 4, 1983

Another kind of folk hero

Australia, a nation of folk and sporting heroes, added a new name to the roll of honour yesterday: Cliff Young, the marathon man from Beech Forrest. At a time of life when most of us have long ago hung up our boots and settled quietly into retirement, the 61-year-old potato farmer decided to put himself to the test and enter the gruelling Sydney-Melbourne race. His record-breaking run was an amazing feat. For five days and 15 hours he stuck at it, pounding down the highway, defying pain, fatigue and the call of sleep, leaving his fellow runner floundering far behind him.

Cliff Young running from Sydney to Melbourne in 1983Credit: The Age Archives

It was a stirring and heart-warming performance and the Premier, Mr Cain, is right to think of honouring it. What was remarkable about it was not just his sheer courage and doggedness – his refusal to surrender for any cause whatsoever – but also his modesty. No outbursts, no tantrums, no playing the superstar – just a quiet determination to finish what he had started before getting back to the peace and quiet of his Otways farm.

Cliff Young with his mother Mary in the City Square, Melbourne, May 5, 1983. Cliff was given the keys to the city.Credit: The Age Archives

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 to split the prize money 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 his is not cut out to be a public figure. But his amazing run has made him a folk hero nonetheless.

First published in The Age on May 4, 1983

Newest cult figure waits for offers

The whole world loves a winner, particularly the Cliff Young sort. His record-breaking run from Sydney to Melbourne made him the nation’s latest cult figure. The Prime Minister has telegrammed his congratulations, the Premier has promised a “befitting honour on behalf of all Victorians”.

The Melbourne City Council has offered the keys to the city, the Doncaster and Templestowe municipal leaders want to do likewise, a “public reception” has been organised for the City Square for 12.30 pm on Thursday and he has been promised a homecoming fit for a war hero.

This tiny, wizened man, hidden in obscurity in the Otway Ranges until the race began last Wednesday, represents a promotional bargain. Australians love a battler who beats the olds, and those who sell our lifestyle know it.

No negotiations have gone far, but for hours before Mr Young finished the race at 1.34 yesterday morning, the telephones were ringing. “Would Mr Young be interested…?”

Mr Young is not upset at the prospect of being harassed by the hordes seeking contracts. He told his first Press conference yesterday: “I’ve got to get what I can out of it. You only get a chance like this once in a lifetime.”

And then he explained that his prizemoney — now lifted to $15,000 — was being shared by the other placegetters, his running mate Joe Record, who was forced to retire near Seymour, and his crew.

How much would he end up with?

“About $5, I reckon.”

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article