Between You & Me: Jaryd Clifford and Tim Logan

The power of friendship and it's contribution to a pursuit of athletic excellence rings true for Paralympian Jaryd Clifford and his guide, best friend and housemate, Tim Logan.

Jaryd Clifford, 24, is a world champion middle and long-distance runner who is sight impaired. He is aiming to compete in his third Paralympic Games, in the T13 1500m and 5000m, in Paris this September.  

His sight has been affected by macular degeneration since primary school and he competes in the 5000m with the assistance, or guidance, of his best friend and housemate, Tim Logan, 27.  

When racing, the pair are connected by a 30cm tether. 

Jaryd:

“We knew of each other before we met. Tim went to a rival local school – I went to St Helena and he went to Eltham High – and he was a rival of an older student at my school. They had a race for the state schools title and Tim won by 0.1 sec. It was a come from behind victory and it took some fight. There was a bit of dog in him. That was my first impression.

I was 13. And then we just happened to come down to the track in Greensborough at roughly the same period and were coached by the same coach.

There was about a dozen of us, training a couple of times a week. Our friendship grew out of that group and eventually, when there was only the two of us left, we only had each other to train with.

We were pushing our training, increasing our loads, and he began picking me up from school after his work so that we could run most days. He was an apprentice electrician at the time.

For me, the perfect guide runner is Tim. For a lot of reasons. One is his spirit. Another is his fight. Looking back, I saw that when I first saw him win that school race.

What I get from guiding is mainly verbal. Sometimes it’s physical, where he will bump me. When I’m running I watch what he is doing, often subconsciously. If he’s running freely, I know to run freely. If he’s more hesitant I know something is up and I will drop in behind him. Sometimes he will describe the situation but that is rare. We’ve run together so much that he knows I will follow.

He brings a lot of selflessness. I don’t think he would ever describe it as sacrifice. The fact that he would never describe what he does for me as sacrificial is part of what makes him such a special person.

No-one knows me in the way he does. He would have been told about my gold medal dream on day one, when we met in 2013, and he is the only person who has literally been with me every step of the way.

Tim is my everyday guide. The other guide, Matt Clarke, I was a groomsman at his wedding. So I’m close to him, too, but the connection is different.

In Tokyo I ran the 5000m solo. There had been a few interruptions in Tim’s preparation due to injury and Matt had qualified for the Olympic Games and with COVID there was no opportunity for him to come back for the Paralympics.

Tim came to Tokyo. On race day, it was 43 degrees. Ridiculously hot. I was considered by a lot of people to be an unbeatable favourite. As it happened, I fell short, collapsed over the line, threw up in an interview that luckily didn’t go to air and was on a stretcher, barely conscious, in a room that only the doctor and I were allowed to be in.

And then I hear a commotion and see Tim and my coach, Philo, run through the door shouting. I couldn’t understand much but I heard Tim yelling ‘You are alright, ‘Cliffy’, You are alright’. He wasn’t asking, he was telling me.

I realised how much that moment meant to him and I also realised that he understood better than anyone else – in that moment when I was broken – why I was broken.

As things are, he will stand on the start line of the 5000m in Paris. It would be cool to finish the race with him but he is going to get me through the first half of the race, which means we will walk out together and he will be the last person to speak to me before the race starts.

He knows better than anyone when I am visually fatigued. He can pick up on the signs. Visual fatigue is a big part of my daily life, something I have to manage so that I can train and, basically, function. I have an amazing sister but I don’t have a biological brother and yet I feel as if I have had a lot of brotherly experiences with Tim.

We’ve had fights but only a couple. One of them was when we were going into quarantine, going to Canberra from Melbourne. It was dumb. Stupid. But at the time I was swearing I wouldn’t speak to him again. I woke up the next morning and he was coolly cooking breakfast, happy, as if nothing had happened.

I remember when we were going into quarantine and Tokyo was approaching, people around us were worried about us falling out and, if that happened, what it would mean for the Games. It’s just never happened.

I hate that he is an Essendon supporter. The thing that we argue most about, every single day in footy season, is that Essendon hasn’t won a final in decades and I wasn’t born when Carlton last won a flag.

My entire career has been with him, and a lot of the significant moments away from the track have been shared with him. We’ve both gone through a couple of relationships that haven’t worked, we’ve seen each other’s personal lives unfold. It’s been all in.

He drives me everywhere – I can’t drive – but refuses to let me pay for petrol. I’ve stopped trying to pay. I tried for years and he absolutely wouldn’t have it. He would get really annoyed.

In Dubai in 2019 he tweaked his calf the week before the race. He told others but he didn’t tell me because we didn’t have time to find a replacement. We made a move with 300m to go in the race  – the winning move – but if you watch the last 100m you can see us get out of synch. He tore his calf in the last 100m. He started that race knowing he was going to rip his calf but did it for me. For us.

We’re definitely best mates beyond the guiding. I don’t know what our plans are after Paris. His role in my daily life could change significantly. It’s life. We all grow up. But we will still be best mates.

 

Tim:

“One of my mates pointed Jaryd out at a local cross country meet, telling me he was this gun who was completely blind. I’m thinking, ‘What, how is that even possible? Cross country (running) and blind?’ He was tiny, too. I think he was 13 years old. I was completely mind-blown.

So I heard about him before I met him. Of course, he’s not completely blind but what he does still blows my mind. Eventually, we started training together and gradually the physical gap between us narrowed and I started helping him out with some pacing.

He was very intense, right from the start. Driven and organised. He had a whiteboard in his room with his goals listed, most of which weren’t checked off when I met him. There is only one now to go, which is Paralympic gold. He had big things in mind.

He is unmistakably dedicated to everything he does. He is a natural leader.  It’s funny to say it but Jaryd doesn’t follow.

He was a school captain. He has negotiated his own deals, with Nike for instance, where most athletes have managers. He is a marquee para athlete made out of his ambition and determination to forge a way.

He’s passionate. About everything. He doesn’t half-arse anything. If you want him to go half way, don’t ask, because it’s in him to go all of the way. Driven and passionate sum him up. And intense.

Being meticulous and doing everything to a high standard is his way. I try not to pull him back from that even if I think, at times, it could help. It’s who he is.

They’re traits that will serve him well after he is done with running. He says he won’t get into politics but I’m certain he is going to be a politician of some sort. He loves politics – he studied it at uni – and he’s a very polished public speaker. I reckon he will get sucked into it at some point.

We’d been training together for about four years before guiding started and it worked seamlessly because of that training. Our strides were in synch. There was a rhythm.

At the 2019 world champs, he won the gold in the 1500m and the 5000m. I guided him in the 5000m and with 300m to go I needed only to tap him with my elbow and together we were out and gone.

He can read my stride, the rhythm of it. If I hesitate he will know something is coming. Our running relationship is intuitive. Occasionally I will have to say something but most of the time we don’t need words.

With guiding, a big part of it is to make his racing as natural as possible.  I don’t want to be dictating a race for him. If there is a move on that he can’t see my guiding is to tell him that a move is on. How he responds, how he wants to race, still has to be his decision.

We’ve shared some interesting times.

The silver he won in the Tokyo (Paralympic Games) marathon has special significance, I think. He finished almost covered in vomit.

Some people thought he shouldn’t do the marathon because it would compromise his performances in the 5000m and the 1500m. I didn’t understand it. He was always going to give his all in every event.

A marathon is a big achievement and to win silver in a Paralympic marathon, a lot of people would kill for that. He got three medals in those Games. Those were highs, along with the 2019 World Championships.

The last few years have been tough for him, though. He has had three bone stress injuries in the last two years. Going from being invincible prior to that – no injuries whatsoever – to making and managing compromises to recover has been difficult. Especially for someone so regimented and disciplined.

He had a stress fracture of the femur going into the World Championships last year. It was on the day of his birthday that he got the scan. He was in and out of the doctor’s office all day, trying to figure out if he could race. He did a little jog, as a test, and he wanted to run but the medical advice was that his leg could snap. Case studies of similar injuries tossed up horrible outcomes – legs snapping through.

And he had to think about competing in the worlds but putting at risk the Paralympics this year. It was a career threatening moment. He ran. And he’s still running, all-in on making Paris.



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