Inner strength major weapon
THE standing ovation Kurt Fearnley received at the annual Ipswich Sports Awards proved how meaningful his message was.
While the international achiever feels uncomfortable being called "inspirational", everyone in the Metro Hotel Ipswich International function room was captivated.
Australia's fearless wheelchair marathon racer motivated some of Ipswich's most promising teenagers as he spoke about using self belief as a powerful weapon.
His story about crawling the Kokoda Trail - through the jungle mud and roots in 2009 - left his audience with goosebumps.
Born without the lower portion of his spine, Fearnley completed the 96km trek in 11 days.
How he defied a different set of challenges to finish second in the recent New York Marathon also highlighted his single-minded focus.
When race leader Fearnley's steering cable snapped 20km into the marathon, he had three choices.
The Paralympics gold medallist could quit, simply try to finish the 42km race, or battle on knowing he was likely to crash.
The sports awards guest speaker made his decision as quickly as he propels his wheelchair.
"A wheelchair is made to go fast but it's made to go forward," Fearnley said, having won the New York race four times.
"Everything in that wheelchair is made to go straight. The only thing that will get you around the corner is the steering.
"When that steering fell apart on me, I didn't really know what to do."
However, Fearnley revealed how a voice in his head willed him on.
"How am I going to do it? How do I win this race now," said Fearnley, 30.
"There was something inside me just screaming at myself to keep going the whole way."
Fearnley's motto when the going gets tough is to find courage within.
He's proven that by winning 33 marathons.
"In every marathon I've been in, everything is stripped away," he said.
"Physically you strip every layer away and then you realise who you are.
"That voice is telling you where I'll stop. You will be challenged and you will make it to the finish."
After completing the race in second spot, Fearnley threw up for two hours and dry retched in his hotel for 45 minutes.
But the determination to push himself to the brink is what makes the five-time world champion a remarkable athlete.
After sharing how he discovered his inner strength on the Kokoda Trail, Fearnley returned to sport where next year's London Paralympics are his next major goal.
"I know exactly what I want," the 2004 Athens 5000m and marathon gold medallist said.
"I know exactly where I'll be to the square metre. I'll be lining up on September 9 outside Buckingham Palace.
"I know that I want to come home with a gold medal - to be world champion and Paralympics champion after 12 consecutive years.
"And I know exactly what I need to do to get there. That is work harder than everyone else."