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I've been doing the Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle

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I just discovered Cliffy Young via Amazon Video today. At 61, he ran 500 miles from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia.
I've been doing the Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle

Albert Ernest Clifford "Cliff" Young, OAM was an Australian potato farmer and athlete from Beech Forest, Victoria, best known for his unexpected win of the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 at 61 years of age.

I just discovered Cliffy Young via Amazon Video today. At 61, he ran 500 miles from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia.

He was a quirky potato farmer that shuffled everywhere he went--even to visit the beach, routines a 35 kilometer run each way.

While I only watched the movie about Albert Ernest Clifford "Cliff" Young as acted by Kevin Harrington in the 2013 movie Cliffy, they must have been faithful to his running gait and pace. And they were! In fact, the Young Shuffle is a thing, also called the Ultra Shuffle.

Now you know why many ultramarathoners run like that. It's the best way to move your body, technically at a run, and preserve as much energy and energetics as possible.

That's exactly how I run! That's exactly how I've run since I've been in my forties. And I'm perfectly happy with that.

What does the Young Shuffle look like? Well, it looks exactly like this:

That's how I run! Well, not 800 kilometers just yet, but if anyone has seen me run, they recognize that style, though I would call what I do a loaf as opposed to a strictly shuffling. Maybe even a zombie lumber (move in a slow, heavy, awkward way).

Doesn't matter! This is brilliant. I already had Slow Jogging in my back pocket and now I have the Young Shuffle which has been widely adopted by the all the other ultramarathoners as the Ultra Shuffle (cultural appropriation, to be sure).

You know that when I run, I run slow and I run far. In fact, in races, I am generally dead last.

In the last decade, I have generally kept a 13-minute-mile or slower pace--oftentimes upwards of a 16-minute-mile--gladly and happily.

In fact, I would sometimes get passed by regular walkers, which means I can sometimes dip down to a 19-minute mile. And about this, I am bragging. My average is generally a 15- to 18-minute-mile. Seriously.

He was doing this.

This funny little video featuring Japanese running guru, Professor Hiroaki Tanaka, sold me (embedded below). The book is brilliant as well and you should pick up and copy and read it:

Slow Jogging: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Have Fun with Science-Based, Natural Running by Hiroaki Tanaka and Magdalena Jackowska.

While I have been doing all of my miles on my treadmill desk at a deplorable-but-workable 2 miles-per-hour (gotta work) and I have been doing all of my kilometers on my Concept2 indoor rower, slow rowing with quite a lot of intense power-10s, I haven't gone outside or onto a proper professional-grade treadmill make for running.

So, here's my pledge and my commitment: in memory and deep respect of and for Cliffy Young and out of deep respect and admiration for Sensei Hiroaki Tanaka,

I will start back up with my ardent, persistent, and blissful practice of slow running at least 4-miles every single day without fail.

I won't start with that as I am smart enough to let me poor body adapt and to allow my heart and lungs to remember that I'm a runner, but my goal will be a daily four-mile visit to runner's church.

Runner's World has assured me that even if I am dead fucking last, as long as I run, I am a runner, even if my running is slow, jogging, shuffling, lumbering, and loafing as well.



  1. Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle: A running technique popularized by Cliff Young, designed for long-distance running to conserve energy. It resembles a shuffle more than a traditional running gait.

  2. Ultra Shuffle: Another name for the Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle, adopted widely among ultramarathoners.

  3. Slow Jogging: A running technique that focuses on slow, easy movement, which is less stressful on the body than traditional jogging or running.

  4. Albert Ernest Clifford "Cliff" Young: An Australian potato farmer who unexpectedly won the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 at the age of 61.

  5. Kevin Harrington: The actor who portrayed Cliff Young in the 2013 movie "Cliffy."

  6. Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon: A long-distance running event in Australia, notable for Cliff Young's unexpected win.

  7. Energetics: Refers to the study of energy flow and its transformations. In this context, it could mean the efficiency of energy use while running.

  8. 13-minute-mile or slower pace: A description of a leisurely running speed, which the author keeps during races.

  9. Hiroaki Tanaka: A Japanese running guru, and author of the book "Slow Jogging: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Have Fun with Science-Based, Natural Running."

  10. Runner's Church: A poetic term to describe the personal, almost spiritual, experience of running regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle

  1. What is the Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle? The Cliff Young Ultra Shuffle is a running technique that involves a low-impact shuffling motion rather than the high knee lift associated with traditional running. It conserves energy and reduces the impact on the legs, making it suitable for ultra-long-distance running.

  2. Who was Cliff Young? Albert Ernest Clifford "Cliff" Young was an Australian potato farmer and long-distance runner who, at the age of 61, won the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 using his unique shuffle.

  3. Why is the Cliff Young shuffle effective for ultramarathons? The shuffle minimizes vertical movement and thus conserves energy, allowing runners to maintain a steady pace for long distances without exhausting their leg muscles as quickly as they might with a higher-impact running style.

  4. How do I do the Young Shuffle? To do the Young Shuffle, you maintain a relaxed posture, keep your knees low, and shuffle your feet along the ground in a smooth, gliding motion. It's less about speed and more about efficiency and endurance.

  5. Can beginners use the Cliff Young Shuffle? Yes, beginners can adopt this style of running. It's advisable to start slowly and gradually increase distance as the body adapts to the new running form.

  6. Is the Cliff Young Shuffle suitable for all runners? While it's a great technique for many, it might not be suitable for everyone. Each runner has a unique body and stride, so it's essential to find a style that feels natural and sustainable for you.

  7. How can I incorporate the Young Shuffle into my running? Begin by integrating the shuffle into your longer, slower runs. Over time, as your body adapts, you can increase the frequency and duration of the shuffle during your workouts.

  8. Will using the Young Shuffle improve my running times? The Young Shuffle is designed for endurance and energy conservation rather than speed. While it may not improve your sprint times, it could help you maintain a steady pace during longer races and potentially improve your times in those events.

  9. What should I be careful of when adopting the Cliff Young Shuffle? Any time you change your running form, there's a risk of new stresses on your body. Watch for any signs of overuse or discomfort and be sure to incorporate strength training and stretching into your routine to prevent injuries.

  10. Is the Cliff Young Shuffle considered slow jogging? The Young Shuffle is a form of slow jogging. It shares the principles of maintaining a relaxed pace and minimizing the impact on the body.

  11. How can I stay motivated if I'm always the slowest or last in races? Embrace your personal journey and goals, and remember that endurance running is about completing the distance, not just speed. Celebrate your own achievements and the fact that you are out there participating.

  12. What if I get tired or sore while learning the Young Shuffle? Listen to your body. If you're feeling tired or sore, it may be time to rest or cross-train. Ensure you're getting enough recovery, and consider consulting with a running coach or physiotherapist if you're experiencing persistent pain.

  13. Can I use the Cliff Young Shuffle in shorter races or just ultramarathons? While it's most beneficial for long distances, there's no reason you can't use the shuffle in shorter races, especially if it's the most comfortable way for you to run.

  14. How does the Cliff Young Shuffle compare to traditional running techniques? Traditional running techniques often emphasize a more significant range of motion, higher impact, and greater energy expenditure. In contrast, the Young Shuffle is more about conserving energy and reducing impact, which can be beneficial over long distances or for those with joint concerns.

  15. Where can I learn more about Cliff Young and the Ultra Shuffle? You can find more information in biographical materials, documentaries like the 2013 movie "Cliffy," and books on running techniques, including those discussing the benefits of slow jogging.

History of the Clifford Young Ultra Shuffle

Clifford Young, an Australian potato farmer, became a national legend and an international sensation when he won the inaugural Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon in 1983. His victory was not just due to his winning but the remarkable and unconventional way he achieved it.

The Race

The Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon was one of the world's toughest endurance races, spanning approximately 875 kilometres (544 miles). Elite runners from around the globe gathered to compete in this grueling event, which typically took five to seven days to complete.

Clifford Young

Clifford Young, 61 years old at the time, was an unlikely competitor. He was a farmer from Beech Forest, Victoria, who had spent most of his life working on his family’s potato farm. Clifford had no formal training or background in professional running, and he showed up to the race in his work overalls and gumboots (rubber boots).

The Ultra Shuffle

Clifford's running style, later dubbed the "Cliff Young Shuffle," was unique. Instead of the conventional running stride, he used a shuffling gait, which seemed awkward and inefficient to spectators and competitors. However, this shuffle was the secret to his success. The shuffle was more energy-efficient, allowing him to maintain a steady pace over long distances with minimal impact on his joints.

The Strategy

The key to Clifford Young's victory lay not just in his unconventional running style but also in his unconventional approach to the race. While other competitors followed a schedule of running for 18 hours and sleeping for six hours each day, Clifford ran continuously, taking only brief naps. This relentless pace allowed him to cover more ground each day than his competitors.

The Victory

As the race progressed, Clifford's persistence began to pay off. He started to close the gap on the leading runners, and by the time he reached the final stretch, he had overtaken them. Clifford Young crossed the finish line in just five days, 15 hours, and four minutes, shattering expectations and finishing 10 hours ahead of the second-place runner.

The Aftermath

Clifford Young's victory was not just a personal triumph but a moment that captivated the nation. He became an instant celebrity in Australia, celebrated for his determination, humility, and the seemingly superhuman endurance he displayed. Clifford, known for his modesty, attributed his stamina to years of chasing sheep around his family's farm.

He won a prize of $10,000 for his victory, which he generously distributed among the other competitors, stating that they deserved it more than he did.


Clifford Young's story inspired many and brought attention to ultra-distance running. The "Cliff Young Shuffle" became a recognized technique in endurance running, with many ultra-marathoners adopting the shuffling style to conserve energy. Clifford continued to run in various ultra-marathons well into his later years, always maintaining his humble and determined spirit.

His legacy lives on in the running community, symbolizing that with determination, perseverance, and an unconventional approach, seemingly impossible goals can be achieved. Clifford Young passed away in 2003, but his story remains a testament to the power of endurance and the human spirit.

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