Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the season for ... (Christmas) ...

... rejoicing in Christ's birth
... reaching out to others to share God's love
... random acts of kindness
... exchanging gifts
... enjoying the warmth of family and friends
... believing in miracles
... hope and inspiration

Yes, all of these wonderful things and more. Yet there are some people, myself included, who occasionally find themselves overtaken by emotions that are not so pleasant - anger, grief, loss, jealousy, guilt, disappointment, fear, resentment, or maybe even hatred - feelings that can easily be exacerbated by what is 'expected'. A few are all alone, with no one around with whom to exchange a friendly greeting, a smile, or a hug.

So, in an attempt to jumpstart positive memory banks and perhaps help provide some added good thoughts and even inspiration during this time, I thought a few good stories might just hit the spot.

In my post of May 1st, the 'good news' part, I wrote about the incredible story I'd heard of an act of unbelievable sportsmanship in a collegiate women's baseball game. Do you remember that, by any chance?

Probably not, but I was thrilled to read Chuck's post of yesterday, where he included mention of that game (with more accuracy than my version, of course!) along with linked references to videos and newspaper articles.

I thought you might like to see a photo of the act that won an ESPY award this year. Here it is ...

The first part of Chuck's post, titled "All the Way, Shay!", talks about the remarkable kindness extended to a mentally and physically handicapped child. It's a good read, and supposedly based on a true story.

There's a short film - well, about 16 minutes or so in length - called "Validation" that I've been trying to link directly here from YouTube, but I'm having those problems again. (It's a good thing I got all my Christmas favorites in place before my link thingee decided to go on the fritz, huh?)

So, unless I can get it fixed, here's the URL address so you can watch it yourself. It's the story - a fable, actually - of a parking attendant's ability to make people smile, and is another warm fuzzy. I love happy endings!

Do you know the story of "The Little Engine that Could"? A wonderful children's story about this little engine who doesn't really 'know' that what needs to be done is impossible. He just goes ahead and tries to do it, all the while saying to himself, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." Then, when he does accomplish the feat, he shouts in triumph, "I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could!"

Well, in 1983, at the start of the Melbourne to Sydney Ultra Marathon - a distance of 543.7 miles - a 61-year-old farmer named Cliff Young showed up in overalls and work boots. Much to everyone's surprise, he wasn't there as a spectator. No, he was there to run the race!

The initial flurry of interviews with curious reporters and overall interest and excitement among the other participants and onlookers faded away to almost nothing after the race began. Cliff had this odd running style, almost a shuffle, and he was soon left far behind the pack.

However, that first night (all of the other runners were sleeping) Cliff gained a lot of ground. In fact, he even passed a bunch. "You see," he said in one interview, "When I was growing up and there was a lot of rain coming - we didn't have any tractors or horses or trucks or anything like that - I would run for two or three days straight sometimes, trying to get all the sheep to safety before the big storms hit."

He won the race handily, not once stopping to sleep, shattering the old record by more than twelve hours!

I realize that he's not shown here in overalls and work boots, but this photo was shot during that race.

There exists actual footage, but it's kind of hard to find. I can give you the link, but if you click on that you will only get audio - and this after waiting a few minutes, but it's certainly better than nothing.

[Alert! Alert!! I just clicked onto that link from this post, and it took me directly to the video - immediately - with no problems. So, if you're able to access that video as easily as I just did, then you can ignore the next whole paragraph. Wild. Just wild!]

If you type in the URL address, which is, you will be informed that the video is no longer available. However, have just a touch more patience. Stay with YouTube here, and type in "Cliff Young - Australian ultra marathon". After a very short wait, you will be directed to the one and only video from that event - and, by the way, it'll be the one that you were originally informed was not available!

Then, from watching that little bit, another one of interest will appear on the sidebar, I think - "Cliff Young on the farm training". In this one, he talks about why he wears work boots while running. He describes the weather there as, "It rains nine months of the year and then winter sets in." Says he doesn't like his feet to be wet. Makes sense to me!

By the way, Cliff attempted that ultra marathon again quite a few years later, this time finishing 7th. It's a wonder he finished at all! According to one source (that I can't immediately put my finger on, so I'm just going to fly with my memory on this one) he had a displaced hip!!

A couple of added tidbits here. His name, of course, is known throughout Australia and among serious runners worldwide. The "Young shuffle" has since been adapted by many ultra marathoners. In fact, since Cliff first won in 1983, at least two other runners have won the race using his technique.

He died just a touch over five years ago now at the age of 81, finally succumbing to the ravages of cancer, but he is certainly not forgotten. Wiki has a nice writeup about him and many other articles exist, as well. Truly an inspiration for us old folks!


Tammy said...

Nicest post I've read all day, Goldenrod. Thank you.

Craig Peihopa said...

I actually saw Cliff in that race, and the whole country was inspired by this slight but kind man. A humble tortoise that changed the feeling of the nation at that time. We can do anything!...even beat the hare!