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On your bike, Grandad

11 June 2014

The Sam Thompson Bridge is part of the Connswater Community Greenway project, which has transformed east Belfast. The project was part-funded by the Big Lottery Fund with a grant of £23.5 million. Former shipyard worker John McKeag was among the thousands who flocked to the opening of the bridge this spring.

John McKeag at the bridge

John Mckeag at the Sam Thompson Bridge

I’ve been cycling the roads of east Belfast for most of my life. I’m a great- grandfather now, but I still spend much of my spare time out on my bike – and I’m not going to stop now just because I’m turning 92.

I wouldn’t like to get up in the morning and have nothing to do. I’ve been running 74 years, and I’ve been cycling since I could ride a bike.

I worked at Harland and Wolff shipyard my whole working life, first as a welding instructor and then for Lloyd’s Insurance.

So it was great to be one of the first people who crossed the Sam Thompson bridge, just across the way from the shipyard’s famous cranes, Samson and Goliath, when it opened on 4 April. I had cycled the four miles to Victoria Park from my home in Dundonald and across the bridge. But that’s just a short hop for me – I recently took part in a 55-mile cycle to celebrate the Giro d’Italia.

Before I retired, I used to ride my bike from my home in Lisbane in Co Down to the shipyard – a round trip of 25 miles every day.

Now Victoria Park, which is spruced up as part of the Connswater Community Greenway project, is one of my favourite spots.

John McKeag cycling across the Sam Thompson Bridge

John McKeag cycling across the Sam Thompson Bridge

Sport has always been an important part of my life. I recently featured in a BBC Northern Ireland documentary about my sporting endeavours called Run Grandad Run and I have competed in running and cycling events in the UK and Europe.

I have all the trophies for running you can possibly get. I was the first runner over 80 to represent Northern Ireland.

Although I did my last half marathon aged 85, I still like to get out for shorter 5 and 10k runs, one of which is regularly held in Victoria Park.

My love of sport helped me cope when my wife Isobel passed away 22 years ago.

Being involved in cycling, sports and running was one of the things that got me through it. These things get you over adversity.

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