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The Slow And Steady Race


Posted by Erin Roberson, February 7, 2024

I recently read about Cliff Young, an Australian farmer, who was born to a poor farming family in 1922.According to Wikipedia, Cliff was the third of seven children. His family raised sheep on 2,000 acres of land. Since they were poor, they could not afford horses.  When a storm was on the way, it was young Cliff’s job to round up the sheep…by running around the 2,000 acres. Sometimes he would have to run for days!

In 1983, Cliff decided to participate in an ultramarathon from Sydney to Melbourne. I have to be honest, I had never heard of an ultramarathon, and I certainly have no idea why someone would want to do it. It is a grueling 544 mile race that takes several days to complete!

Cliff showed up, at the age of 61, to run the race.  He arrived in his overalls and work boots. Before the race started, he took out his dentures because, according to Cliff, they rattled when he ran. I’m sure he was quite a sight compared to the much younger professional runners!

On the first day of the race, Cliff was in last place by a long shot! While the other runners took off at a typical pace, Cliff shuffled along at a speed of just 4 miles per hour.  After about ten hours, the other runners stopped to sleep.  Instead, Cliff continued on. Cliff ran through the night. In fact, he ran continuously for five days!  The amazing thing is that Cliff won the race by 10 hours!  He set a new record that was almost 2 days faster than the previous time.

The prize for winning the ultramarathon was $10,000.  Cliff felt the other five runners who finished the race had worked as hard as he did. He split the money equally between all of them, keeping none for himself.

Cliff Young’s unusual running style became known as the “Young Shuffle,” and it was adopted by other runners as a way to run long distances while expending less energy.

When asked how he ran for five days straight, Cliff said he pictured himself running after sheep on the farm as a storm was closing in. 

I love this real-life “tortoise and hare” story!  We can learn so many lessons from the story of Cliff Young.  Here are a few:

God uses unlikely people.

I’m sure when the onlookers sized up the runners at the starting line, no one picked Cliff Young as the favorite to win the race (or even to finish)!  This makes me think of some of the people who were used by God in the Bible. Moses was a murderer with a stammer, David was an impulsive teen, and Peter was an uneducated fisherman.

God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He doesn’t need our ability; He needs our “yes.”  What does God want you to do for Him today?

Life’s difficulties prepare us for our future.

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” Romans 5:3-5.

If we remember that difficulties have a purpose, it helps us to keep our focus on God and look for the lessons in the challenges.  I’m sure Cliff did not always enjoy running after the sheep, but it prepared him for a great victory.  God uses the hard times in our lives for our good and His glory!

Don’t stop!

I don’t know about you, but I probably would have quit the ultramarathon on the first day.  I would have looked at the distance between myself and the other runners, and I would have thought, “There’s no way I can catch up. This is embarrassing!  I should just stop now.”

When we feel like giving up, we need to remember that God loves us and wants us to live a full life that is focused on Him.  God will provide the strength to continue on, even when we can’t see a good end to our situation.  He may be teaching us important lessons that we can only recognize when we look back on the experience. God will let us know when it’s time to quit. Until then, keep going!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9.

During difficult times, win the battle in your mind.

When negative thoughts threaten to overtake us, we can fixate on the joy and peace that is found in Jesus.

Let these promises of God help you battle your negative thoughts:

  • We are more than conquerors through Jesus, and nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).

  • Jesus promises peace during times of trouble, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

  • The Holy Spirit gives us power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

Recognition for accomplishments is not our greatest achievement

You might be someone who has been blessed with achievements in this life (a promotion at work, recognition for a talent, winning an athletic event), or you might be someone who says, “I’ve never won anything!”  We all have an opportunity to receive the greatest achievement, to have our names written in heaven (Luke 10:20).  Paul wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  The ultimate “prize” is eternity with God! How do we get it? Jesus tells us to confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus and to believe that He is the Son of God who was raised by God from the dead.

Being the fastest is not as important as being consistent.

As Believers, we are to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into the character of Christ.  The traits of honesty, kindness, patience, humility, and self-control should be exhibited in our lives consistently. We develop this “fruit” of the Spirit through frequent, consistent time with God through His Word and prayer.  

Cliff Young impacted the world of long-distance running with his unique running style. What impact can we have on those around us by running our “race” in a way that glorifies God?

Erin Roberson is a wife and mother of two wonderful grown boys. She is a lifelong educator who loves learning and teaching others. She believes our primary focus should be on our relationship with God, learning who God is, who God says we are, and how God wants us to live.



I loved it! Great illustration & so much godly truth! Lynn Gunter

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