Sometimes we veer off Calvary Road into a ditch.
The journey looks too long. The marriage too ravaged. The child too prodigal. The path too treacherous.
Tomorrow looks dark.
Dark places halt life. Dark places paralyze. They trigger anxiety and fear. Too afraid to decide. Too scared to move.
Cliff Young showed up for the 550-mile, five-day, Sydney-to-Melbourne Australia ultra-marathon race wearing overalls and work boots. He didn’t have a sponsor. Didn’t have a wife–never did. The 61-year-old farmer lived with his mom and 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres of Australian farm land.
He told a reporter he joined the race for the wonder of it. Many times the old man ran over 2,000 acres of farm land for three days straight without sleep, through the dark, to gather sheep and herd them to safety from gathering storms. “Two more days doesn’t seem different,” he said.
At the starting gun the 20-and-30 something pro runners bolted in their $200 Nike shoes and Reebok running gear. The old man shuffled along in his overalls. The professional runners’ way was: run 18 hours, sleep 6. Young didn’t know there was a professional way. He only knew what he did on the farm–run through the dark.
The professional pack pulled far ahead. But Young gained ground, because he didn’t stop for the dark. He ran through it.
After five days, fifteen hours and four minutes, the old man crossed the finish line.
He beat the old record by two days.
Second place crossed the finish line nine hours later.
When they handed Cliff the $10,000 prize, he said he didn’t know there was a prize. He handed $2,000 each to the next five finishers. “They ran hard too,” he said. Cliff went home empty handed.
Next time the dark engulfs you, or the journey seems to long, or you’re paralyzed with fear and dread, or you skid off into the ditch, remember Cliff Young.
And run through the dark.