Starting Lines

Starting Lines

Last night I toed the starting line of a new race in my career. I’ve committed to lead a passionate pack of dedicated parents at Dayspring Academy. As I drove away from the meeting I felt a tad overwhelmed by this new role.  Self doubt wanted to take over! Then God reminded me of Cliff Young’s extraordinary story.

At 61 years old, Cliff Young decided to run Australia’s 875 kilometer, ultra-marathon endurance race from Sydney to Melbourne. Only a few young, highly trained athletes participated in this event each year. The race usually took a week to complete.

On the day of the race, Cliff Young, in his overalls and gumboots was mistaken as a spectator. As he approached the registration table to take his number, it became obvious that Cliff Young was a participant! He was going to join a group of 150 world-class athletes and run! Many thought it was a publicity stunt. Curious reporters began to question Cliff:

Cliff Young, 61 years old“Who are you and what are you doing?

“I’m Cliff Young. I’m from a large ranch where we run sheep outside of Melbourne.”

“Are you really going to run in this race?”

“Yeah,” Cliff nodded.

“Got any backers?”


“Then you can’t run.”

“Yeah I can,” Cliff said. “See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four-wheel drives, and the whole time I was growing up – until about four years ago when we finally made some money and got a four wheeler- whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them. I believe I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

When the marathon started, the pros left Cliff behind. The crowds smiled as Cliff set off in his gumboots and overalls. Reporters commented on his “incorrect” technique. Instead of running, he leisurely shuffled.

Australians fixated on the live telecast. Many feared the worst for Cliff.

The professional runners knew that it took approximately 7 days to complete the race. The athletes knew they needed to run for 18 hours and sleep for 6. No one informed, 61 year old Cliff Young of this formula; and so he ran.

The next morning, the public was shocked to find out that Cliff was still in the race. Rather than stopping to sleep, Cliff jogged all night!

When asked about his race tactics, he said it was “to run to the finish line.” And so he kept running. Every night he would inch closer to the leading pack. Finally, by the last night, he passed ALL of the world-class athletes, while they were sleeping. Cliff remained ahead until the finish line. Not only did he run the Melbourne to Sydney race at age 61 (without dying)…he won first place, breaking the race record by 9 hours!

Cliff Young finished the 875 kilometer race in 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes. He didn’t sleep because he didn’t know that he was supposed to; he just kept imagining that he was chasing sheep and trying to outrun a storm.

If this man wasn’t amazing enough already, when awarded with the first prize of $10,000 he said he did not know there was a prize and insisted that he had not entered for the money. He said, “There are five other runners out there doing it tougher than me,” and he gave them $2,000 each.

It is astonishing how often unremarkable people impact the world in remarkable ways. It’s inspiring, because there’s probably a Cliff Young in each one of us.

The starting line was a critical moment in Cliff’s journey. I applaud his courage and inner strength because the odds were stacked against him. He did not have….

  • Proper training
  • A national sponsor backing him
  • Conventional running shoes or clothes
  • Racing experience
  • Correct running form

But, this is what he DID have…

  • Life experiences – running sheep over 2,000 acres
  • A straightforward plan – “To run to the finish line.”
  • Ignorance – His lack of knowledge was a key component to his success. No one told him he needed to sleep
  • Courage – Cliff believed in himself!

All too often, we become paralyzed at the starting line. We allow our lack of experience, lack of support, lack of training, or improper attire stop us from taking that first step of faith. Romans 8:28 (Amplified) says, “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”

My new position at work seems small compared to an ultra-marathon but these principles still apply. I can call on my life experiences, straightforward plan and courage to help me through this school year. Like Cliff Young, ignorance can be a secret super power because it causes you to think outside the box and try things that have never been done before!

Share your starting line story today! Let’s encourage each other as we run this race of life!


Side note: Laura Sack drew this amazing picture for me. She is standing at the starting line of her artistic career! The featured image box cut off some of her beautiful work so I’m re-posting it here so you can see its true beauty. Laura thank you for illustrating my journey!

Illustrated by Laura Sack Laura is standing at the Starting Line of her artistic career!

Illustrated by Laura Sack
Laura is standing at the Starting Line of her artistic career!