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24 Jan 2019

How to Run a Business Like Cliff Young

I’ll start by saying Cliff Young wasn’t a business owner. He was a farmer in Australia.

In 1983, Cliff turned up in his overalls and work boots to run in the Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon, a 544-mile long race. He was 61. He’d taken his teeth out to run the race; he said his dentures rattled when he ran.

Beech forest cliff young memorial gumboot

A monument to Cliff’s wellies

You might guess he would lose. Most people did. But because I’m writing about this you already know there’s something worth talking about. Cliff won that race, but that isn’t the remarkable thing.

The remarkable thing is how he won.

When the race began, everyone else set off at a run. Cliff took off with a looping shuffle. At the end of the first day, he was a very long way behind. The other athletes stopped for the night, but Cliff kept going. That first night he took the lead. He ran for five days, 15 hours and four minutes straight and won with a ten-hour lead. He beat the previous record for the Ultramarathon by almost two full days.

The prize money was $10,000. Cliff split the money between the others, keeping none for himself, saying they worked just as hard as he did.

Since then, other people have used “The Young Shuffle” to win that race and others.

So how do you run a business like Cliff Young? There’s certainly a tortoise and the hare angle, but this isn’t about winning or breaking the record, or even that they put up a monument to him. All those things are incredible, but the takeaway for me is, don’t assume the same way everyone has always run is the best way. Everyone laughed at Cliff when he started to run.


But, he didn't just win, he changed how the race was run.


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Jacqui Frost

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Jacqui Frost

Jacqui Frost

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