Zach Clifton--Up & Running to Success
At age 18, Georgia Southern University freshman, Zach Clifton, has already built a resume of accomplishments usually seen in someone much older. The former Southeast Bulloch High School honor student, academic scholarship recipient and cross-country champion, sports a 5k, 3.1 miles, P.R. (personal record), of seventeen minutes and thirty-eight seconds, (five minutes, forty-one second per-mile pace), as a runner. A record set on a grassy trail at the W.W. Mann Retreat Center last fall, where he was crowned Region 3-AAA Champion. Clifton also paced his Southeast Bulloch High School team to the overall title, the first one for SEB in over a decade. Not even a year out of high school, in addition to his racing prowess, Zach can add race director, event manager, fund raiser and innovative race film producer to that resume.
Clifton became a runner initially to improve his overall athleticism.
“When I was in middle school, I was playing soccer and wanted to improve my fitness so I started running,” he said. “My only goal was to make the middle school soccer team. I eventually ran more and transitioned from being a soccer player to a high school runner. I ran my first race in 2011. I thought I was going to die. One of the local high school coaches at the race told me I did well. That gave me more encouragement and motivation to purse running in high school instead of soccer. By the end of my junior year in high school I was running over 100 miles a month.”
Running over three miles at a five minutes, forty-one seconds per-mile pace, is a testament to the former soccer player’s fitness. In addition to being fit, Clifton has always been very goal-oriented.
Toby Davis, Zach’s former high school track and cross-country coach remarked, “Zach’s leadership and maturity are outstanding. Even after graduation, Zach continues to frequently come to meets to address the team and motivate the runners. It seems that whatever Zach sets his mind to, improving as a runner or helping someone in need, he accomplishes.”
Additional evidence of Davis’ confidence in Clifton is after 18 years, Coach Davis officially turned over to Zach, his race directing duties of Bulloch County’s largest 5k race, the Brooklet Peanut Festival’s Peanut Run, which annually draws over 500 runners. Clifton was assistant race director for this year’s event, and next year he will be totally in charge of all aspects of the race.
For all his accomplishments, Clifton has also faced some personal challenges.
“At the beginning of my junior year in high school, a childhood friend of mine, Jordan Aubrey, died in an accident,” Clifton said. “The sudden death of someone so young who had been close to me, transformed my view on life. I now incorporate it into my mantra - I aspire to live every day of my life towards making the world better.”
One way Clifton wants to make Bulloch County better is by organizing and promoting other 5k races now that he has the Peanut Run experience.
“I want to bring the best quality of races that are similar to the famed Wingfoot cross-country meet, hosted by the iconic Atlanta Track Club and the Gate River Run National Championship 15k in Jacksonville, Florida to this area,” said Clifton. “I would also like to run a race in all 50 states.”
Clifton has started his own company, Up & Running, to make his dreams come true. “I started Up & Running in August of this year as an event management company specializing in running road races. I love running, meeting people, filming, and all aspects of racing,” Clifton stated. “My venture into the business/fund-raising side of running is a perfect fit. I am a business and communications major at GSU.” Clifton has already posted videos to YouTube from this year’s Brooklet Peanut Festival 5k and GSU’s True Blue Homecoming 5k and 10k road race in October.
Another aspect of racing promotion that Clifton is developing is the filming of races. What distinguishes him, is how he films—very up close and personal—Clifton shadows runners. Eschewing typical media road race filming vehicles such as a golf cart or the back of a motorcycle, Clifton runs alongside the runners. He not only films, he inspires, cheers, and supports the entire field, not just the elite runners.
“I learned to film while working in the marketing department at Campus Recreation Intramurals at Georgia Southern. My supervisor, Jeremy Wilburn, graciously let me borrow some of his equipment so I could film at the Brooklet Peanut Festival 5k. Since then I have purchased my own equipment, a Go-Pro Hero 5 and a stabilizer.”
The Go-Pro video camera is suspended from a wand that Clifton holds aloft as he runs and it pivots to keep the images stable. He can video one runner or the whole field as he keeps pace.
Clifton added, “There is so much local talent that simply needs to be exposed. I hope to bring communities throughout South Georgia, closer together. Producing and filming these races will be my way of supporting the runners and affording them more opportunities for recognition.”
Clifton hopes to use his videos to promote racers, events and racing overall as a sport.
“I want the best exposure possible,” he said. “All races have photos. Very few small (market) races offer race videos. My intent is for Up & Running to capture a video of every race.”
Clifton’s next hosted race is the Resolution Run, Delight in the Lord Ministries (DLM), 5k, January 20, 2018, in Brooklet. The event will be held on the same course as the Peanut Festival 5k race. One hundred percent of the proceeds from that event will go to feed the children of the ministries’ school in Uganda.
Clifton credits his faith and the love of his parents as his inspirations for giving back.
“One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Timothy 4:7, ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.’ (New International Version).”
”I owe everything to my parents, Angie and Brant Clifton. They have raised me to be the man I am today. My grandpa, Billy Clifton, also inspired me, he was the 1962, Georgia Junior College State Champion in the 100-yard dash, when he was a student at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College,” said Clifton.
With a pedigree to prove it, Zach Clifton, is a gifted and talented young man. He not only can talk the talk, he “runs” the walk. Expect many more races for Clifton in the future. Zachary Clifton seems well poised to continue to keep the faith, fight the good fight, and make the world a better place.
Editor’s Note: Up & Running videos can currently be viewed on YouTube.