The Dark Side

The past few weeks have brought with them some challenges.  Many of these trials feel like they have a dark side to them.  As I was reflecting on the best way to handle each of these tests of my mettle, I remembered a story that I heard many years ago.  It is the story of The Legend of Cliff Young.  It goes like this.

Cliff Young

In 1983 Cliff Young showed up to the starting line of one of the world’s toughest races.  Every year, Australia hosts a 544-mile ultra marathon from Sydney to Melbourne.  This race has been coined as one of the most grueling endurance races in which someone can compete.  This event takes five days to complete and as a rule only world-class athletes who train exclusively for this race dare to enter.

I Can Do This

Cliff Young was a 61-year old farmer who showed up in his Osh Kosh overalls and workboots with galoshes over the top to run the race.  Cliff lived with his mother, had never been married, and had never run in any kind of a competitive race before.  He was asked by reporters if he had any sponsors or backers.  People said he was crazy and that he would never finish the race.  Cliff told the reporters that he grew up on a farm with no horses or four wheelers to round up the sheep on the farm.  Cliff talked about having to gather the sheep up if a big storm was getting ready to roll in.  He said that sometimes he would run for three straight days to collect his sheep.  This race was only two more days; he could run in this competition.  The other runners were all under the age of thirty wearing the finest running gear money could buy, and of course, sponsored.

His Light Shined On In The Darkness

When the race started to elite athletes left Cliff in the dust and laughter of the crowd who made fun of his awkward shuffle.  Some even feared for his safety.  The strategy of the other runners to win an ultra-marathon was to run for 18 hours, sleep for 6 hours, and then repeat for five to seven days.  So this is how it went.  When dark fell upon them, the runners, their crew, reporters, and camera operators would sleep.  But Cliff, the 61-year old man would shuffle on through the night.  His light shined on in the darkness.  The darkness had nothing on Cliff’s light, and faith, and determination, and hope.  Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.”  The difference between the elite runners and Cliff was that he ran through the dark because he didn’t know you were supposed to stop.  He didn’t know about the accepted way that the professional runners approached the race, so he kept on running.  When Cliff would gather his sheep, he would run through the night for up to three days without sleep.  The dark never stopped him.

The Finish Line

On the morning of the second day of the race, everyone was surprised to see that Cliff was still in the race.  People were in disbelief when he said that he would run straight through to the finish without sleeping.  For five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes, Cliff ran, never once stopping for the dark.  By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes.  And, he was the first competitor to cross the finish line setting a new course record.  The second runner crossed the finish line 9 hours later.

For The Wonder Of It

When they handed Cliff the $10,000 of prize money, he said that he didn’t know there was a prize.  He said he had run for the wonder of it.  He commented that the other runners had worked hard too.  So he stood at the finish line and handed each of the runners an equal share of the $10,000 walking away in his overalls and boots without a penny.

What did I learn from revisiting this story?  That the race is won, the challenges overcome, and the victory had by running through the dark.  And that is what I have been inspired to do.  Keep my light shining, step-by-step shuffling through the darkness until I cross the finish line.  I hope that this story encourages you to keep moving through any darkness in your life.  Remember, you are your light.

Stay true and be you —


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