Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Relatively speaking: John McKeag

Running man: John McKaig (91)

John McKeag from Co Down is quite a remarkable athlete who still pounds the paths in his local park at the age of 91. He features in a new BBC One NI documentary which is being screened on Monday.

Name: John McKeag

Age: 91

Occupation: Retired welding instructor

Relationship to Anne: Father

Anne was an only child and we are very close. After my wife Isobel died 22 years ago, I relied on Anne a lot and we became even closer.

She's a very positive person and would never say, 'You can't do this' or 'You can't do that at your age'.

She was very bubbly and happy as a child, and still is.

Anne's the figurehead of our family. Everyone looks up to her and goes to her for advice. I don't know what I'd do without her.

We live close to each other and speak every day. I have grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and we really are one big happy family. We all see a lot of each other and are always going out for meals together.

When Isobel died, it was a very big blow because we had always been together and did everything together.

She was a very outgoing, strong person and loved to travel and go camping. We were teenage sweethearts and met when she was 16 and I was 18.

She was the only girl I ever went out with and we were married for nearly 50 years.

It was so hard when she went and Anne was there for me. I sometimes forgot that Isobel was her mum, as well as my wife, and she was grieving too.

It was Anne and sport that got me through.

Running and cycling forced me out of the house and gave me something to focus on. I've been running now for 74 years.

It's been good to me. I've ran in nearly every half marathon in the UK and also competed in Europe. I did my last half marathon when I was 85.

It's kept me young -- my joints are as good as the day I was born.

I don't compete any more, but I do park runs to raise money for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children and, if it's a good day, I'll maybe do 40 miles on the bike.

I also train twice a week and have a turbo trainer in the house which I'm on every day.

Family means everything to me and I love spending time with Anne, her children and their young kids.

Name: Anne Magill

Age: 61

Occupation: Nurse

Relationship to John: Daughter

Dad has always been really sporty and I'm the exact opposite, but we are really close and always have been.

Growing up I remember him going out on his bike every Sunday and running marathons in Belfast and Dublin.

Although I played hockey at school, I wasn't sporty at all as a child and dad never pushed me.

My bond with dad grew even stronger after my mum, Isobel, passed away.

It was a big shock, especially for dad, as he and mum did everything together and it was just the two of them in the house after I left home at 17.

If it hadn't been for running I don't think dad would be here today.

Mum's death affected him really badly and I know it sounds extreme, but sport saved his life.

Mum loved cycling as well and they would often go out together on their bikes -- once the two of them even cycled to Dublin. They also had a motor home and loved to travel.

Losing mum left a huge gap in his life and running and cycling played a big part in filling it.

Personality-wise, dad and I are very alike in that we just get on with things and are positive, glass-half-full people.

Although he may not have really wanted to do a run or cycle after mum died, he pulled himself together and did it.

He's a great-granddad now, but all my grandchildren just call him 'Johno'. They don't think he's old -- they think he's the same age as my husband.

To me, he's just dad. It's only when we go to some of the running club dinners where he gives out the prizes and is a bit of a celebrity, that we realise how special he is. My dad is so easy to get on with and joins in with everything that's going on. He's a real gentleman.

People ask me if I worry about him out running at 91 years old, but he is very sensible. He had a foot injury a while ago and took time out to let it heal properly. He does what the doctors and physios tell him.

I do sometimes worry that he might go over on his ankle and break something, but why would you want him to stop something he enjoys so much.

Everybody says he would 'put you to shame'. He's out running and we're all watching the TV."

GRANDADS ON THE RUN

* John McKeag will feature on the BBC One Northern Ireland's programme, Run Grandad Run next Monday at 10.35pm.

* The programme will also chart the attempt by 71-year-old Patsy Forbes from Co Tyrone to become the fastest man in the world -- over 70.

* Patsy has been involved in sport all his life, playing football or boxing.

He competed at the World Masters Games in Turin last year and picked up three silver medals.

* True North: Run Grandad Run, is made by independent production company Century TV.

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