by Christine Thomas 

I love the story of unexpected marathon runner, Cliff Young. I was in primary school when he won his first big race and I remember thinking, “How did that old guy beat everyone?” Turns out I learned something new about humans that day – what’s on the inside is stronger than what’s on the outside.

Perhaps you remember him? Cliff was a 61 year old sheep farmer when he entered his first ultra-marathon. It was a 5 day race stretching more than 875km from Sydney to Melbourne. Confession time – I complain when I have to drive 875km let alone run that far. If I had to run 875km it’s highly likely I’d resemble a blistered tomato whose support team had long since abandoned ship because they couldn’t stand the whining. And that would be before the end of day 1.

Cliff turned up to race in the gumboots he wore around the farm and took out his false teeth so they didn’t “rattle in his head.” He was used to running to round up the sheep on his property . Sometimes it took him 3 days so an extra couple of days in the race didn’t faze him. The race began and the rest of the field who were mostly under the age of 30 quickly disappeared from view. (This, I can relate to).

The experienced runners stuck to their race plan: run for 18 hours and sleep for 6. By the end of day 1 they were far ahead of Cliff, who shuffled along slowly. But Cliff had a hidden advantage. He was a sheep farmer and when he rounded up sheep on his farm for 3 days, he rounded them up day and night for 3 days. So when the rest of the fit, young running pack went to sleep for the night Cliff did not. He shuffled on through the darkness. He told a journalist later that he didn’t know you were supposed to stop, he just kept running. For 5 days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes straight, he ran – never stopping – and he crossed the finish line first. Not only did he win, he smashed the world record and not by an hour or two either!

Cliff Young, this tiny, wizened man, beat the world record by 2 days, and beat the second place getter by 9 hours (side note, I imagine that was quite a surprise to the runner up!)

The Apostle Paul was around the same age as Cliff Young when he wrote his final letter to his protégé Timothy. Paul also liked running races. The letter is full of instructions and encouragement, urging Timothy to endure and remain loyal to Jesus. Paul tells him, “Don’t give up when times are hard. Work to spread the good news. Do everything God has given you to do.” (2 Tim 4:5)

In other words, keep going. Remember what God told you to do, and until you hear something different from Him, keep doing it. Keep spreading the good news.

Sometimes it’s better not to run fast, but just shuffle with perseverance. And when it gets dark, don’t give up! Keep running the race and you’ll eventually get to the finish line. It might be with tomato cheeks, blistered feet, heaving lungs and significant loss of feeling in your right big toe, but keep running and you’ll get there.

At the time of writing to Timothy, Paul knew his days on earth were drawing to a close. I love the big, bold claim he makes in this final part of his letter and oh, may it be true for each one of us:

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim 4:7

Shuffle on, my friends.

Join The Discussion

Add Your Comments

(Required, not publicised)