How to Attempt the Impossible at Any Age

attempt the impossible - runners

Has your day job ever changed your whole outlook on life?

No, me neither… not until just recently.

You see, I regularly get asked to edit manuscripts – some requests are job offers, some are favours, but I put them all through my ‘opportunity versus time available’ filter before deciding.

Well, the most recent opportunity turned out to the most valuable event that ever came into my life.

Our very good friend Mary Jaksch of GoodlifeZEN asked me to be the Editor for her book Youthful Aging Secrets.

“Of course, we work great together, it’ll be fun!” I wrote back.

Always happy to support a friend, I made time in my already busy schedule. Sure, that was tricky. Maybe you’re thinking she owes me a favor back?

Actually, I owe Mary something more enormous than I can find the words for here.

Her book has changed my outlook on the second half of my life – no, hang on, not ‘changed’, it’s annihilated my previously fast-held beliefs on life past 40.

Did you know the second chapter of your life could be more productive, rewarding and remarkable than the first half, whatever age you are now? Are you thinking like I was back in April before I had the incredible good fortune to be a part of this project, that getting older = inevitably slowing down, winding down, doing and being less?

If you want to blow your mind on what’s possible click here to grab your FREE copy of Youthful Aging Secrets.

Here’s an excerpt about attempting the impossible at any age (this is a true story)…

If You Attempt the Impossible

The 61-year-old farmer showed up in overalls and work boots. Instead of lycra, he was wearing long pants with holes cut for ventilation. A hush fell when Cliff went to the registration desk and picked up a race number.

“You gonna race?” one of the competitors called out.

“Yep,” Cliff said.

“In your boots?” the guy continued. People in the crowd chuckled.

Then, a reporter asked him if he thought he could win. “Yep. I’ll give it a go,” Cliff said. He was willing to try anything!

Cliff Young had lined up for one of the world’s most grueling endurance races, the Sydney to Melbourne ultra-marathon which stretches over 875 kilometers.

When the starter gun sounded, the field of fit, young guys breezed past him. The crowd laughed out loud when they saw that Cliff couldn’t run properly. He seemed to shuffle along at a snail’s pace.

In this race, competitors would usually complete the course over five days, running about eighteen hours a day and sleeping for the remaining six.

But nobody told Cliff about this. When his competitors woke up after the first night, they asked how the “old looney” was doing. “Oh, he’s doing good,” one of the organizers said. “He ran all night and is two hours ahead of you guys.” As you can imagine, this wiped the smile off their faces.

Cliff kept on running with minimal stops, lengthening the lead each day. During the first few days, he fell and injured his shoulder. But Cliff soldiered on.

Cliff’s training had consisted of herding livestock on his farm. “I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four-wheel drives. Whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them.”

His performance-enhancing diet consisted of Weet-Bix, cold tinned spaghetti, boiled potatoes, egg flips, and pumpkin.

Halfway through the race, the weather turned bad and it started to bucket down. Someone tried to hand Cliff a water-proof jacket, but his shoulder was causing him so much pain that he couldn’t lift his arm to put it on.

Finally, Coleman, the race director, caught up with Cliff and suggested he should have a pain-killing injection in his shoulder. ‘‘He told me where I could stick my needle in no uncertain terms,’’ Coleman recalled. ‘‘Then he just plodded on.’’

Cliff’s support crew, Wally and Wobbles, were earthy types, just like Cliff. Wobbles got his name from having a lopsided walk after a bout of polio as a child.

Apparently, on their way to catch up with Cliff, just outside the town of Tumblong, Wally and Wobbles were about to pass the race’s youngest competitor, John Connellan, when they realized he was struggling.
Wally leant out of the clapped-out van.‘‘Hey, what’s up with you, mate?’’ he yelled, trying to be heard above the rattle of the engine.

‘‘Aaw, Wally, damn, my ankles are swollen, my back hurts, my legs ache …’’

‘‘Listen, mate,” Wally replied. “You ain’t tired till your eyes bleed! Now, get on with it!’’

But the encouragement was to no avail. At the next town, Connellan slumped into a chair, grabbed a beer, and said to the reporters, ‘‘Why doesn’t somebody shoot that little bloke out in front? I just can’t believe that a 61-year-old is making mincemeat of us all.’’

Every day of the race, Cliff began to forge further ahead, getting by on only a few hours’ sleep each night. Finally, Cliff Young won the race, running 875 km in five days, 14 hours and 35 minutes—the equivalent of almost four marathons a day. He shattered the previous race record by more than two days!

Cliff Young earned the event’s $10,000 grand prize. Cliff didn’t feel he needed more money than the modest $2,000 a year he earned, so he shared the prize money with other competitors and his support crew. But the excitement and the tiredness got to him. Apparently, his legs gave out after the presentation of the prize and he had to be carried off the stage.

The Australian sports journalist Neil Kearney wrote, “He was an unspoiled character, pure in his way. He was good with people, he was charming, self-deprecating and the little Aussie battler. He was a guy no one expected to win. And this was a phenomenal challenge, that distance down the highway, the relentless nature of it, the fact that it broke good men, proven men who’d run all around the world.”

Cliff Young left Sydney as a nobody and arrived in Melbourne as Australia’s most improbable national hero. His gait, the Young Shuffle, was later adopted by some ultra runners because it saves energy over long distances.

After his race, he advised others in the style of Forrest Gump:“Get out of your wheelchairs and start doing a few laps, if you can. If you don’t get any exercise your joints start seizing up like a rusty engine. It is like rust that gets into a vehicle. I reckon you have to keep your joints moving. Absolutely. No matter what you do, you have to keep moving. If you don’t wear out, you rust out, and you rust out quicker than you wear out.”

Cliff, the youthful ager, was willing to try anything, even if others thought his goals were impossible to achieve. At 76, Cliff hit the headlines once again when he attempted to run around Australia’s 16,000 kilometer border to raise money for homeless children. Cliff completed 6,520 kilometers and was raring to continue. However, the support guy in the dodgy van had a heart attack so, reluctantly, Cliff had to stop the project.

If an Australian farmer in his 60s and 70s was willing to try anything and overcame seemingly impossible challenges, imagine what you could achieve.


What are your dreams? What mental, physical, or creative goals do you want to achieve?

There are three steps to make your dreams become a reality like Cliff Young did. The first step is to pick a goal you truly want to achieve. The second step is to determine the smallest action which will move you toward your goal. And the third step is to schedule the date when you will take action.

It’s important not to share your dreams with naysayers. Many people like to kill the dreams of others because they feel threatened by seeing someone aim high. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people who have a positive attitude and will support you in reaching your dreams.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great”—Mark Twain

Click here to grab your FREE copy of  Youthful Aging Secrets.


Spread the happiness!

Laura Tong

Laura is on a mission to help you reduce stress and grow your happiness by simplifying your life. Download her free cheat sheet: 5 Guilt Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict)

Laura also hosts the Re-write The Rules In Your Life interview series where she shares awesome happiness and positivity tips from experts around the world. Click here to listen free to the latest episodes.

Laura 's writing regularly features on such top blogs as Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and Goodlife ZEN. Her articles have been read and shared by thousands (and even translated into Serbian and Burmese).

She’s a published author (traditional and indie) and has written books as diverse as luxury travel, surreal fiction, autobiographical and personal development. You can get her latest book here:The Life-Changing Power of NO!

Laura is also Editor of Write To Done & Assistant Editor at GoodlifeZEN and hundreds of students have taken her course on building confidence.

Laura’s other passions include painting, renovating her house in France and building everything from Ozark float boats to hovercraft. She also loves travelling, adventuring and discovering just how awesome people are the world over. Follow Laura on twitter

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