Neil Featherby: What’s the difference between being inspired and motivated?

Cath Duhig picks up the Federation of Athletics Murcia Region Master Athlete of the Year award. Pict

Cath Duhig picks up the Federation of Athletics Murcia Region Master Athlete of the Year award. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

As we draw close to the end of another year, us runners tend to look back on what we have achieved or of course on what we didn't achieve.

However, goals achieved or not, January 1 will be the first day of a new year with new goals and expectations for which that in itself is usually enough inspiration or is it motivation?

With that subject in mind, I had lunch with an old friend earlier this week before going to a presentation at one of my old schools where his dad was a teacher and whereby we not only discussed old school days, we also got on to talking about what is the actual difference between inspiration and motivation.

My friend is very clever and can leave me standing by miles when it comes to such debates, but also amusingly knows that I will always bite on the bait if I have a slight difference of an opinion.

Nevertheless and having known each other since childhood, he has always made it known that he thinks that I am a very focused and driven person be it in sport or business and suggested during our meaningful chat that my drive as he calls it comes from being inspired at an early age when at school.

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I agreed, but also said I was more motivated as opposed to being inspired by events of what had happened back then, along with of course other life changing events as I got older.

Whilst I am not proud of it now and as pointed out by my friend, much of my early school years saw me in one scrape or another and whereas when most of my class mates were reading through their school books, I would invariably have a sports book tucked inside mine before getting caught time and again only to be told that I was wasting my time thinking I would be a footballer or indeed good at any other sport.

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"You must have been a nightmare to teach, but let's not forget what was probably the defining moment when one of your teachers said you will never ever run a marathon," he said.

It all goes back to when the 1968 Mexico City Olympics Games were taking place and my teacher at the time who was obviously a huge athletics fan would start each day talking so very excitedly about all the sporting events going on in another part of the world.

Whereas my ability to retain attention and focus nowadays might be pretty good, back then it was not the best when it came to classroom lessons. However, this huge passion for athletics and the Olympics which he displayed, really did make me sit up and hang on to his every word.

Two events which I can so vividly remember him talking about were the high jump when Dick Fosberry brought his own style to high jumping with his gold medal winning jumps since referred to as the Fosberry Flop, and the story and the history behind the marathon. He said that only a few people are blessed with enough talent to be able to run such a distance and that the likelihood is that no one in our school would ever be able to do so.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereI was absolutely enthralled by it all and put my hand up and said: "I am going to run a marathon."

He just looked at me and said: "I don't think you will."

Hardly encouragement for any young influential child you might think, but those words have stayed with me ever since that day and whilst on the surface you would have to say, his comments were not exactly inspiring, for me they very much triggered something.

Rather than using the word inspired, I would prefer to say that is what very much motivated me to always knowing that one day I would indeed run marathons and I suppose you could say prove him wrong.

Needless to say, there was no point trying to have the last word with my friend so I let him finish with "he inspired you and motivated you. It was the story of the marathon that inspired you and him saying you won't be able to run one which motivated you further."

"Absolutely," I just said and left it there.

At the end of the day, we all need inspiration and motivation if we want to succeed.

I have always tried to encourage people to be the best they can be at anything they want to do and not let anyone tell them otherwise just like my old teacher. I have also at times tried to inspire or is it motivate people into doing things by way of perhaps suggesting they can't or won't do it i.e. what we now call reverse psychology.

As we go through life, lots of things happen to all of us which makes us what we are and why we need to try and achieve things and whereas inspiration certainly does come from the driving forces within us, for most of us, we all at times need a little extra motivation too.

Going into 2020, even though I am well beyond being a competitive athlete, I still have at least one big challenge for next year and whilst I know exactly what the driving forces will be for me, I also know exactly where to go looking during those moments when I might just need a bit of a kick up the back side to give me that extra motivation to keep going.

Fifty-one years on and those words from my old teacher still motivate me. Or is it inspire?

Finally, I have to say a very big well done to former West Norfolk race walker Cath Duhig who now lives out in Spain and has just won the award for being the Federation of Athletics Murcia Region Master Athlete of the year and to her husband and former top Norfolk athlete Peter Duhig who recently celebrated his 70th birthday by running in the Valencia 10k with all his family. They have both for many years epitomised the words inspire and motivate, that I do know.

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