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And Now for Something Completely Different
These athletes were forced into an entirely new understanding of their sport. What would you do if you were confronted with a reality different than you thought was true?

Every once in a while we face a new paradigm in our lives, and we can either do one of two things: retrench and firm up our previous belief system, or we can use the new paradigm to expand our horizons. Such a confrontation with a new paradigm is found in the story of Cliff Young.

Few observers believed that this obvious "eccentric" could actually run the gruelling five-day race.

Although many of us here in Canada may not recognize that name, in Australia he is a national hero. He was the 1983 winner of the annual 600 km foot race from Sydney to Melbourne. That alone is a fantastic feat of endurance, but it was who Cliff Young was and how he won the race that makes the story incredible.

This race attracts some of the best endurance racers in the world and is sponsored by some of the corporate giants in the running world. In amongst the group of world class athletes who were preparing to run this race, a 61-year-old man, apparently wearing overalls and galoshes over his work boots, stepped up to the race registration table to sign up.

Few observers believed that this obvious "eccentric" seeking publicity could actually run what had been up to that time a gruelling five-day race. Yet as he collected his number from the race officials and joined the other runners it became evident he going to take part.

Their curiosity piqued, the media began to ask about this strange new entrant. They soon discovered that Cliff was a farmer who came from a large farm that raised sheep near Melbourne. Apparently, the farm until recently had lacked horses or vehicles to aid them in herding sheep. It wasn't unusual then for Cliff to round up sheep by foot if a storm should threaten them. There were times when he would run for two or three days herding those sheep. Cliff had figured he could attempt a race that normally took five days to complete.

When the race began and the pack of runners left Cliff behind, few felt that he would ever complete the race intact. This is when the paradigm that surrounded the Sydney to Melbourne race changed. For years the method of tackling this 600-km race was for a runner to run about 18 hours and then sleep for the remaining six. However, Cliff obviously was unaware of this unwritten rule. He simply didn't stop when the other racers quit for the day. He continued running through the night! Every 24 hours that passed Cliff got closer and closer to the leading pack of runners. Eventually he passed them and on the last day of the race was all alone in front.

Cliff Young became a national hero when he crossed the finish line nine hours ahead of the best time ever recorded for the race. In the process he challenged and changed the whole paradigm that surrounded that race.

In a similar way paradigms were challenged, and even changed, when the Son of God broke into our worldly scene. The mystery of how all this can be is still debated and argued to this day. Some deny the full divinity of Jesus, seeing Him either as a created being, the chief of all created beings or perhaps as a religious genius. His humanity is emphasized. On the other hand, there are those who lift up His divinity or "Godness" by claiming that God was simply making use of a human body. They never quite get to His humanity.

However, by accepting the reality of the virgin birth, and the fact that the one we know as Jesus had two equal and distinct natures (one human and the other divine) united in one person, we begin to see the love that is God.

Bill Hall is the editor of Northern Light.

Originally published in the Northern Light Magazine, May 2000.




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