As soon as the race started, everyone took off leaving Cliff slowly trekking along. Most of the people watching the race thought he was a crazy old man and were afraid he’d hurt himself but he kept going.
Normally the contenders run about 18 hours and sleep 6 hours during the seven-day race; but no one told Cliff he was supposed to sleep. So while the other runners slept he kept running, gaining on the pack a little more each day. By the last night, he passed all of the world-class athletes. By the last day, he was way in front of them. Incredibly, not only did Cliff run the Melbourne to Sydney race at age 61 without dying, he won first place, breaking the race record by 9 hours and becoming a national hero!
When asked how he could run all night, Cliff said. “I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses, and whenever we had to get the sheep in, I’d have to go out on foot and round them up. We had 2,000 head, and sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days nonstop.” Throughout the race, he just imagined he was chasing sheep. When Cliff was awarded the first prize of $10,000, he said he didn’t know there was a prize and insisted they split it among the other lead runners. The nation fell in love with the 61-year-sheep farmer who came out of nowhere to defeat the world’s best long-distance runners.